And… And… And…

Oct 13 2023 | By More

★★★★☆     Captures the essence

Traverse: Fri 5/Sat 6 Oct 2023
Review by Thom Dibdin

Strange Town Touring Company’s And… And… And… takes time out from its tour round Edinburgh’s secondary schools to play the Traverse for two nights only, proving that Isla Cowan’s script is worth a wider audience.

Cowan examines the stresses of teenage life, in an era of plastic pollution, climate change and increasing dependency on young carers, through the lens of best pals and S6 students Cassie and Claire. It’s a hugely relatable piece, which digs beneath the surface to give real heft to what could be a very clichéd situation.

Caroline McKeown and Tiana Milne-Wilson. Pic: Andy Catlin

The play, created for a schools audience, is helped enormously by a pair of spot on performances from Caroline McKeown as climate activist Cassie and Tiana Milne-Wilson as Claire, who chums Cassie on her beach clean-ups, just to be with her best pal, but has troubles of her own and would frankly rather be gnashing down a bag of chips.

Initially, the piece chunters along nicely, much in the vein you might expect. Not quite so pronounced as to be preachy as it digs away at those anxieties, but certainly wearing its heart on its sleeve.

As Cassie becomes increasingly obsessed with climate issues, provoked even further when they see the fires raging on the other side of the firth as the local chemical plant vents gas, and sets up a demo, McKeown brings a real sense of the teenage obsessive to the character.


The way she ignores her own physical needs for the cause – and the powers that be set out to crush her demonstration, is quite the heart-rending slide into unintended self harm.

She isn’t just ignoring her own needs, however, but also her best pal. Milne-Wilson does an equally strong job here in suggesting Claire’s own feelings for Cassie, while bringing Claire’s own personal situation into the plot without making it too clunky.

Caroline McKeown and Tiana Milne-Wilson. Pic: Andy Catlin

Katie Innes’s design is versatile enough to suggest a manky foreshore, festooned with rubbish, as well as school playground where the two girls hang out – or don’t. George Cort’s lighting and Gavin Fort’s sound add suitably to the atmosphere.

Steve Small directs with an assured hand, ensuring that the characters are well enough drawn and portrayed with enough depth to keep the issues piling up, so that each is not exactly hidden behind the next, but they are not presented in such a way as to be overt.


Where this really takes off, however, is when it suddenly gets a whole lot more meta and the issues come breaking out into the open. Cassie physically breaks down while delivering a speech, the house lights come up and the pair address the audience directly: questioning how they can finish the piece.

How they manage to do so will either be satisfying – or a cop-out; depending on your cynicism level. And the pedant might also question whether every one of the items chosen to illustrate how plastic can be useful – indeed vital, beyond disposable water bottles, is actually correct.

These are small beer niggles, however, and Isla Cowan succeeds in ensuring that the whole piece achieves many of its aims. Notably that it provides a both a starting point for discussion for those who might be seeing it with their year group, and interesting theatrical elements for those studying drama who will have an interest in the process of its construction above what it has to say.

The overall result is a well-judged piece of issue-based theatre. It is performed with realistic intensity and provides a strong theatrical platform on which to make its cases.

Running time: One hour (no interval).
Traverse Theatre 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Fri 6/ Sat 7 Oct 2023.
Evenings: 8pm. (Traverse 2).
Tickets and details: Book here.


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