‘The management must be quaking in their boots!’ quips one of the characters as an aside early on in this original work by Jo Clifford. Certainly, the piece is a brave undertaking for both theatre and playwright: a lyrical but still close to the knuckle portrayal of a sudden death and its aftermath based on the playwright’s own, still raw, experience of loss.
Clifford gets around our innate squeamishness about the subject matter with a disarming opening in which the characters – five members of a family – face the audience and nervously introduce themselves. It is their believable ordinariness that makes what happens next such a jolt: mother Mary (a warm, dynamic performance from Kathyn Howden) drops dead one morning while doing the ironing. It’s as shocking for the audience as it is for the surviving family members that there is to be no second chance for Mary: her life is over, she’s dead and that’s that.
Clifford reveals admirable ambition in the second part of the play, opening out the discussion to meditate on everything from global warming to the Holocaust. The parallels between this small, but crucial death and destruction on a grand scale are clear, but gradually the play loses its gentle power even becoming rather hectoring at points, and only resonates again when we return to the family and their individual attempts to live through their grief.
Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, until Sat 3 Apr