A Guid Cause

May 28 2015 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩    Head and heart

Church Hill Theatre: Wed 27 – Sat 30 May 2015

Informative, intelligent and packing a considerable emotional punch, Edinburgh People’s Theatre’s world premiere of A Guid Cause is subtle, complex and intriguing.

The play, written and directed by Irene Beaver, is set around a ‘seamstress to the gentry’ in Edinburgh’s New Town in the years before the First World War. The women who are portrayed are contrasting in their backgrounds and beliefs, but share a support for the cause of votes for women.

Lynn Cameron, Kirsty Boyle, Niloo Far-Khan, Mags Swan and Anne Mackenzie. Photo Graham Bell

Lynn Cameron, Kirsty Boyle, Niloo Far-Khan, Mags Swan and Anne Mackenzie. Photo Graham Bell

Mags Swan’s Maimie is both a force of nature and finely drawn, as she emerges from being an abused wife to being a confidante and a conscience to the other characters. The role is intensely symbolic without being unconvincing, thanks in no small part to Swan’s big-hearted and clever performance.

Annie (Niloo Far-Khan) is the militant suffragette seamstress who is in favour of direct action. Khan captures both the character’s impatience and her lust for life, as well as providing the evening’s most chilling moment as she describes the horrors of force-feeding.

Mrs Sinclair-Munro is the society lady and MP’s wife who appears at first to be the stereotype the others believe her to be, but is opened out into a much more vulnerable and multi-faceted character through the combination of Beaver’s writing and Lynn Cameron’s thoughtful performance.

Kirsty Boyle invests Mrs Sinclair-Munro’s maid Morag with a combination of ingenuous piety and shy determination, producing another believably rounded character.

Jeanie, the owner of ‘A Stitch in Time’, is the play’s most inscrutable character, dispensing support to the others and trying to rein in their excesses while remaining convinced of the rightness of their cause. Anne Mackenzie’s performance, forthcoming and reticent by turns, seems entirely in tune with the character’s conception. When she displays unfettered emotion, it seems truly hard won and is accordingly devastating.

notable interplay

There is undoubtedly the odd moment when the cast do not seem to fully inhabit the roles, but they are thoroughly convincing over the play as a whole.

All five performers are given monologues, and these are among the play’s strongest points, with Swan’s particularly impressing. There is also some notable interplay between the cast at some apparently low-key moments, where there is a realistic, emotionally supportive atmosphere. This is aided by Beaver’s fluid direction, which is unfussy yet has a profound attention to detail, giving a natural flow to passages that could be static.

Publicity image for A Guid Cause.  Photo Graham Bell

Publicity image for A Guid Cause. Photo Graham Bell

Unfortunately, between these two extremes there is a large amount of awkward exposition in a play that is probably too long. The temptation to include so much relevant information should have been resisted. There is also a laudable desire to give each performer a similar amount to do, with the result that there are scenes where four people seem to be taking it in turns to recite bits of a history textbook they all already know.

This does not detract from the production’s impact, however. The combination of an important story that remains too little known, with some intelligent, emotionally coherent performances, is a winning one. There are several echoes of more contemporary events, which are cleverly and subtly done. The trademark care with which EPT assemble their costumes, props and sets is also very much in evidence, while there is also the fascinating touch of using a crew of scene-shifters in period dress. When one of them dons military uniform as the war starts, it is a simple yet telling moment.

This building up of small details is emblematic of the production as a whole. It could benefit from some judicious trimming, but it is easy to see a future for A Guid Cause – particularly when it is performed with as much skill as it is here.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes including one interval
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Wednesday 27 – Saturday 30 May 2015
Wed-Fri at 7.30 pm; Saturday 2.30 pm

Full details and tickets from EPT website: http://www.ept.org.uk/shows/show=201505guidcause.html

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