The Carousel

Aug 7 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩    Stunningly performed

Traverse Theatre (Venue 15) Thu 31 July – Sun 24 Aug 2014

Impressive production values and impeccable acting are on display in The Carousel. Stellar Quines’ production at Traverse 2 of the second part of Jennifer Tremblay’s trilogy succeeds on its own terms but does not entirely fulfil the huge burden of expectations placed upon it.

Maureen Beattie in The Carousel. Photo Mihaela Bodlovic

Maureen Beattie in The Carousel. Photo Mihaela Bodlovic

Such was the impact of the first part of the trilogy – The List – that, try as you might, it is almost impossible to judge The Carousel without making comparisons to the earlier work. The same team behind the first production are present again here, and any disappointment is caused by The Carousel falling short of its predecessor rather than any great flaws in the show itself.

Once again, Maureen Beattie puts in a towering performance as a woman journeying to her dying mother Florence’s bedside, while trying to understand why her grandmother Marie treated Florence the way she did. Beattie mixes anger, longing, lust and vulnerability in a way that is spellbinding.

Muriel Romanes’s direction, Philip Pinsky’s sound design and Jeanine Byrne’s lighting are once again of the highest quality. John Byrne and Roland Fraser have provided another striking set. The translation by Shelley Tepperman is again extremely noteworthy. Throughout, there is such attention paid to the smallest detail, to how dramatic impact can be maximised, that it cannot fail to be involving.

slightly confused

Where this production falls slightly short of the extraordinary standards set by The List, however, is in the original material. While consistently involving, the script does not have quite the same urgency and visceral power. When it does reach for the poetic heights, there is always the danger of becoming overwrought. The structure of the unnamed narrator’s explorations of her background seems slightly confused, leaving the audience struggling to keep up occasionally.

Any links to the first play of the trilogy are not entirely explicit. Had this been presented by a different performer and billed as a different character, we would easily have believed it. The air of unnecessary fatalism – a belief that women are doomed to repeat the patterns set in earlier generations – does not seem entirely in keeping with the character seen before.

Perhaps an opportunity to see the trilogy as a whole will make this all more explicable. As it stands, like many a middle part of a trilogy, it retains the faintest whiff of water-treading.

These criticisms must be seen in the context of comparisons to what was such a remarkable production. Seen in isolation, The Carousel would perhaps have had more impact. However, there is no denying the quality of the production or the impact of Maureen Beattie’s performance.

Running time 1 hour
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED (Venue 15)
Tues 31 July – Sun 24 Aug 2014 (not Mons)
Times vary
Tickets from

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