The Scotsman Sessions #24: Janette Foggo

Welcome to The Scotsman Sessions. With the performing arts world shutting down for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, Janette Foggo gives a dazzling double performance as a pair of identical twins in an extract from Peter Arnott's acclaimed play Face.

Isobel and Morag are identical twin sisters, now just turning 60; and although they share the same face, they have led very different lives. Morag is conservative and conventional, a teacher of maths and science in a Glasgow secondary school, with a huge private passion for music and the arts; Isobel is the rebel, the wild child, currently living in Dubai with a toy-boy after ditching her unexciting husband, writing a scurrilous newspaper column, and planning surgery that will change forever the face she shares with her only sister. Their relationship is a fraught one, full of hatreds and resentments that date back 50 years; but between them, they tell us something profound about how childhood pain can shape lives, and how women still judge one another for the life-choices they make - and perhaps, too, something about Scotland, and our continuing struggle, ingrained somewhere in the culture, with the idea that we were not put on earth to enjoy ourselves, but rather to suffer or endure, in the name of duty and respectability.

Peter Arnott’s superb twin monologues Face: Morag and Face: Isobel - first seen together at A Play, A Pie And A Pint in 2016 in productions by Stasi Schaeffer, and then in a Mull Theatre tour under the title Face - is one of the small-scale unsung masterpieces of recent Scottish theatre, not least because of the dazzling and moving performance delivered by leading Scottish actress Janette Foggo, in both roles. In a career stretching over four decades, Foggo has appeared on screen in films and television series ranging from Lindsay Anderson’s Britannia Hospital to the BBC’s Lost Tribe; in Scottish theatre, she has been a powerful company member at the Lyceum, the Tron and Dundee Rep, and played a stunning Queen Lear in the Bard In The Botanics 2018 season, as well as an unforgettable Volumnia in their 2016 version of Coriolanus.

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In her Scotsman Sessions film, talking straight to camera, Foggo creates these two very different characters, Morag and Isabel, using no magic beyond Peter Arnott’s words, and her own massive acting skill. A tilt of the head, a tone of voice, a slight brightening of the eyes; these are the things that make Isobel and Morag very different women, and Foggo captures that difference to perfection. Arnott is a brilliant and penetrating writer, often of big, ambitious plays like The Breathing House for the Lyceum, and his recent Tay Bridge for Dundee Rep. He also, though, has a rare gift for monologue, already captured in Tom McGovern’s Scotsman Session of Tay Bridge spin-off, The Signalman; and he deploys that gift to the full in these two fragments, in which first Morag, and then Isobel, recall the childhood incidents that haunt them still, and have helped make them the women they are.

Janette Foggo as Morag
Janette Foggo as Isobel