Theatre review: For All I Care, Summerhall - Main Hall, Edinburgh

For All I Care, Summerhall, Main Hall (Venue 26)
For All I Care, Summerhall, Main Hall (Venue 26)
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Clara is a waif and stray in the Welsh town of Ebbw Vale, shoplifting to order for a devil named Diane.

For All I Care, Summerhall – Main Hall * * * *

She can’t remember if she’s taken her meds, and so she sets herself on fire in the store’s changing room wearing stolen clothes.

Nyri is a mental health nurse trying not to bed a young policeman, as she struggles with her guilt over the death of her mother and worries about her teenage son. The words of Nye Bevan – the founding promise of the National Health Service – ring in her ears, but caring is much harder when there are no beds in the system. Nyri just puts up with things, until her encounter with Clara forces her to make choices, and she seizes a chance for redemption.

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For All I Care is a slow-burn delight, as Hannah Daniel builds the characters of these two women piece by piece, in a bare-bones set with three dangling microphones, a chair and a pair of glasses.

There are many shows this Fringe more directly confronting mental health issues, but among its other qualities this piece from the National Theatre of Wales dispassionately and charmingly dissects the dilemmas of the carers and the cared for. It’s a story of intersecting lives, in a town where everyone knows everybody’s business, a drama with the kind of dangerous-but-funny menace provided by a drug dealer next door that you’d find in an Irvine Welsh short story.

Daniel’s twin characters gel in our minds through a performance of delicate touches. Alan Harris has written a touching tale of two women who define and draw strength from each other, and the interwoven threads of this tale are sewn neatly together for a teary-eyed close.

TIM CORNWELL

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