Seanmhair

Hywel John

The Other Room

Bedlam Theatre

From 04 August 2017 to 28 August 2017

Rating: ****

Review by Philip Fisher

For about ¾ of its 70-minute running time, Seanmhair (pronounced Shenovar) grips its audience by the throat, drawing them into a shocking tale of illicit love.

This production for The Other Room is powered by Kate Wasserberg’s tight direction of a strong cast who swap roles with alacrity and play very unselfishly throughout.

Set not too far from the theatre, in Edinburgh’s New Town and Leith, it relates the story of aristocratic Jenny (primarily Molly Vevers) and guttersnipe Tommy MacLeish (primarily Jo Freer).

Viewed from the perspective of old age 50 years later, Jenny is still independent but wild Tommy has become a victim of cancer and struggles to retain his personality.

If ever there was a case of mutual love at first sight, this was it. The initial problem is that in 1950, at the time of that first sight, each was only 10.

Nevertheless, they became devoted, she playing truant from her swanky academy, he already almost forgotten at school, though sometimes welcome in borstal.

Without wishing to give too much away, their union leads to such difficulties that her Seanmhair or grandmother (primarily Sian Howard) and his mother, chalk and cheese but both tough cookies, form an unholy alliance.

These elements would be enough for any play but an additional dramatic twist is introduced that dilutes the tension. This is a shame because otherwise, with its poetic language and chilling story, Seanmhair would be bordering on perfection.