Distance Remaining

Apr 14 2021 | By More

★★★☆☆   Assured

Online: Wed 14 Apr – Sun 9 May 2021
Review by Hugh Simpson

There are some wonderful, and wonderfully human, performances in Distance Remaining. The three separate sections of the production ultimately fail to gel, but there is more than enough to sustain the interest.

Presented by Helen Milne Productions, and shown online by a variety of Scottish theatres, Stewart Melton’s script features three isolated people in different parts of Scotland and different situations, but each facing up to loneliness that lockdown has not caused but has certainly aggravated.

Distance Remaining – Dolinna MacLennan in Rug Rat. Still: Seth Hardwick

The first segment, Rug Rat, sees Dolina MacLennan’s Jess, apparently long past the age when ‘falling’ becomes ‘having a fall’, unable to get up from the floor. The scenario that instantly brings a certain Alan Bennett monologue to mind – something that is only accentuated by Jess finding a biscuit on the floor.

However, the North-East Scotland setting, in an area apparently bedevilled by drug problems, gives the piece its own definite flavour. This is helped by an outstanding performance by MacLennan, poignant and with an admirable use of stillness, full of both despair and thrawn endurance.

All three sections are beautifully directed by Caitlin Skinner, with Seth Hardwick’s photography extremely impressive. There are some clever moments that stress the artifice of the whole episode, showing both the effectiveness of Jen McGinlay’s design and the limitations of the whole format.

interactions with offscreen characters

This is particularly true of the middle third, Chase Scene, where Karen Dunbar plays Lindsey, a volunteer delivering the messages to those shielding during lockdown while grappling with her own anxieties. Expressive as ever, Dunbar is excellent at showing interactions with offscreen characters and at portraying Lindsey’s gradual unwinding.

Distance Remaining – Karen Dunbar in Chase Scene. Still: Seth Hardwick.

Reuben Joseph’s young dogwalker Cam is the focus of the final film, Here Boy – a figure whose isolation and feelings of failure chime with the national mood in another wonderfully judged performance.

Despite the quality of the acting, filming and direction – or maybe because of it – there are some definite nagging doubts about the whole. Attempts to link the three sections together, beyond the lockdown theme, do not come off. A running thread about dogs seems artificial, and showing all the characters relying on their mobiles does not say anything new.

However good the performances may be, there is little sense either of dramatic progression or of this being a coherent whole, and attempts to provide some more concrete connection, as well as a kind of resolution, only draw attention to this.

Melton, however, does have an undeniable flair for dialogue (or in this case monologue) and there is sufficient humanity in the script to give the excellent performers a chance to shine.

Running time: One hour 15 minutes
Wednesday 14 April – Sunday 9 May 2021
Wed-Thurs (and Tues 20 Apr)at 7.30 pm; Matinee Suns 2.30 pm

The performances are presented online by various theatres throughout Scotland and are available to watch for 48 hours after the start time.

Details at https://distanceremaining.com/categories/upcoming-online-performances

Distance Remaining – Reuben Joseph in Here Boy. Still: Seth Hardwick.

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