It’s near impossible to know what the heck to expect when you walk into The Other Room at Porter’s. It’s a place you sink into and out of after being drowned in a storm of story and emotion.
In ‘Seanmhair’ (its translation being the Scots Gaelic word for ‘grandmother’) we’re met by Jenny; a three-part chorus of a girl, woman and wanderer played through the eyes and body of Sian Howard, Hannah McPake and Molly Vevers in an alley-like wall of thoughts. Their individual exploration of the young and aged lady cover dimensions of one female whose innocence is tested through her actions, and whose love for love and lust is scrutinized by her body’s consequences for those firmly fixated feelings. The play switches between times, Jenny at the tender age of ten where she meets her future husband Tommy (also skilfully played by McPake), and Jenny at an older age where she is caring for her ‘sparrow-like’ husband who is now ill and lifeless- a brutal irony where their past is considered. They suffer an adult-like childhood together, they face the repercussions of their opposing classes and they also suffer the cruel pain both known and unknown to so many. But this new work also focuses on the importance of a maternal figure, a grandmother, Jenny’s ‘shenavar’.
Set in a dark, earthy Edinburgh we are engulfed in this story as Mark Bailey’s design keeps us at the open end of the adjacent walls, along with the carefully jig sawed flashing lights and soft, natural sound, this piece really reflects the word’s need for a physical atmosphere. The play’s dedicated geography keeps us on a secure path in an unsafe situation, its design and effects steer us along with the director’s dedication to pace and poetry. And the story’s shape is captured in its design; its reoccurring three points of contact are vivid, while Kate Wasserberg has picked up on every careful comedic comment lifting the piece through its brutality, she also indulges firmly in its violent voice and vivid vocal labour.
Hywel John’s new play throws a clash of class into a brutal and severe situation which makes you wonder if what really attracts people to people are their differences or their similarities, this amongst a million other thoughts and this in the eyes and mind of a child and grandmother.
Seanmhair runs at The Other Room at Porter’s until April 1st before transferring to the Edinburgh Festival. It is a play I would urge everyone to experience.