Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 15 Nov
Fans of Lost will be familiar with the supernatural powers a (seemingly) deserted island can possess. However, it seems the US TV show’s creator JJ Abrams had an unlikely forerunner – Scottish playwright JM Barrie. While Barrie is more commonly associated with the giant of his plentiful corpus, Peter Pan, in Mary Rose, his exploration of the pains of growing up is as chillingly potent as ever.
When she marries at 18, Mary Rose seems permanently stuck in a state of pre-adolescence, a quality her parents believe the consequence of her mysterious 20-day disappearance on a remote Hebridean island during a childhood holiday. The unsettling atmosphere this creates between her parents and husband Simon is well-captured in Tony Cownie’s production, not least due to Malcolm Rippeth’s eerie lighting and Neil Murray’s versatile set design. There are some standout performances too: Perri Snowdon is captivating as Mary Rose’s at first jovial then grief-stricken husband, while Robin Laing excels as sensitive islander Mr Cameron.
Yet, for a play that’s a little over two hours long, some elements drag. Mary Rose’s second kidnap, for instance, is quickly anticipated and the lengthy, sentimental banter that takes place between her and Simon – meant to drive home the tragedy of their separation – becomes irritating rather than touching. And, while the exquisite dramatic timing means Mary Rose’s all-pervading ghostly presence never overshadows the intrinsically comic elements of the play, it’s unlikely to stir up a long overdue revival of Barrie’s lesser-known works.