Review: The Guid Sisters, Royal Lyceum Theatre

MARTIN Bowman and Bill Findlay’s translation conveys the political weight of this play – which was written in Québécois at a time where standard French was the norm for theatre – by translating it into Scots.

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In the late 1980s, this translation was an exciting part of that pro-Scots movement of which The Steamie and Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off are a part. But in this revival, that political fig-leaf has shrivelled, leaving this over-populated and over-long play to curl up in the cold.

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“No man alive”, declares Karen Dunbar’s character in a heart-wrenching soliloquy, “can show life the way it is”. Especially not in one of those “fancy French films”. That is, of course, exactly what this farcical fable by Michel Tremblay set out to do.

Germaine Lauzon is the winner of a million savings stamps but must stick them all into booklets to claim her winnings, a task for which she enlists the help of a motley bunch of friends and family. The 15 women around the sticking table take it in turns to address the audience and we gradually see below their glib surface and hypocrisy into what are deeply unhappy but very ordinary lives.

Directed through an obstacle course of bitching sessions, religious imagery, Scots patter songs and physical comedy sequences by Serge Denoncourt, the performances are excellent.

Kathryn Howden as the matriarchal Germaine and Karen Dunbar as her tragic-trickster sister Rose are predictably superb, while Jo Cameron Brown is great as the posh bitch neighbour.

While each character is distinct, their sheer number makes it hard to care about them individually. Combined with an uneven soliloquy structure, much of the play is like an aged soap opera.

Dunbar and her colleagues breathe a lot of life into this play, but it still doesn’t stand up on its own.

Run ends October 13