Theatre review: Flying With Swans

At the Oran Mor, Glasgow. Picture: Contributed
At the Oran Mor, Glasgow. Picture: Contributed
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PLAYS about the end of life are becoming something of an obsession in Scottish theatre, not least each October, during the Luminate Festival of creative ageing; and Jack Dickson’s new Play, Pie and Pint drama, due at the Traverse next week, is no exception.

Flying With Swans

Oran Mor, Glasgow

***

Yet while many plays on this subject take a dim view of our declining years, I can’t recall seeing one before which robustly suggests group suicide as the most creative option.

As the play opens, 70-something friends Jean and Dolly are on the pier at Ardrossan, waiting to board the Arran ferry; absent, so far, is their other friend Mona, now resident in a care home called Campsie View. Dolly is a brisk former advocate who spends her retirement travelling; Jean does not enjoy living under the supervision of her overweening daughter. And Mona, when she arrives, is clad only in her nightie, having had to steal a careworker’s car to make her escape. On the ferry, the three talk about their lives: their theme is autonomy, and the right to decide for themselves, even if that only means chucking their phones overboard, before taking the same leap themselves.

In Alison Peebles’ production, Kay Gallie, Anne Kidd and Karen Ramsay turn in a trio of well-crafted if slightly familiar performances, as three very different women at the ends of their tethers. Yet either we value the lives of the old, or we don’t; and if festivals like Luminate are about anything, they must surely be about challenging, rather than reaffirming, the increasingly chilling drumbeat of the idea that for people over 70, the right to die is the one that counts, and the only freedom worth having.

Seen on 27.10.14
• Oran Mor, Glasgow, today; Traverse, Edinburgh, 4-8 November

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