The Air that Carries the Weight (3 stars)

Poetry and isolation in Stellar Quines' new production

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The Air That Carries the Weight on stage

credit: Marc Marnie

Rebecca Sharp's new play is a small languid meditation on how friendship endures, even as life does not. Narrator Isobel (Melody Grove) and young writer Yvonne (Pauline Lockhart) have been inseparable from a young age, so when Yvonne dies unexpectedly at Hallowe'en, Isobel inherits not only her Argyll cottage but also the sense of isolation, in locale, and towards her friend – realising that she perhaps didn't know her as she thought she did.

John Byrne's gorgeous willowy design, and the haunting score by Pippa Murphy, all pagan drums and whispers, loom large over this production, casting large eerie shadows over the spaces the girls inhabit. Another ghostly figure woven into the narrative is Yvonne's inspiration, real-life Argyll writer and archaeologist Marion Campbell, whose mythological 1973 novel The Dark Twin appears as another plot device.

So the lyrical quality is well-defined, and Campbell, portrayed by Alexandra Mathie as a no-nonsense school ma'arm type drifts in and out of the play, dispensing wisdom and cheek along with her best friend Mary. Lockhart as Yvonne is an appealing, sassy figure, but there is never a real sense of why she took her own life, nor the demons that plagued her and her equally troubled father. The lightness of the piece means a sense of poignancy is often absent, and it is at times hard to invest real emotional attachment to Isobel, who seems moody and non-plussed rather than grieving.

But the joy of youth, however fleeting, is vividly captured in Muriel Romanes' fine direction, her last for Stellar Quines, with small nods to Glasgow student drinking days along with the motivation that impels girls and women to create something that will last longer than them.

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Thu 24–Sat 26 March.

The Air that Carries the Weight

Rebecca Sharp's play about friendship, digging and reconciliation transcending time and space.

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