Ailsa Benson Is Missing

Samara MacLaren
Assembly Rooms
to

It's not easy being a teenage girl, especially when you've got separated parents and you've just found a lewd pen in Dad's car. Of course, that doesn't seem to matter so much when Ailsa Benson, a popular girl in school, has gone missing and the police are asking questions.

While Ailsa Benson may be the titular focus of the play, she's really more of a catalyst for the story through which Samara MacLaren's Nina is forced to look at her life and re-assess what's happening in it.

The story is told in flashback by the adult Nina, now a successful advocate, taking a break before the verdict being called in her latest case, dropping just enough little hints about her life to help the audience draw little inferences about the time between the schooldays in question and today.

Stepping out of her work shoes and into a pair of trainers, MacLaren transforms from the assured and sensible lawyer to Nina's charmingly naïve and self-oblivious teenage self as she ruminates on what's happening, on how Ailsa and her friendship grew apart and how everyone keeps asking her if she knows something, because surely, she must, mustn't she?

MacLaren's first full play is a strikingly insightful piece, a genuine mystery viewed through the eyes of a teenage girl, eyes that return everything to herself in an unwittingly self-centric worldview which contrasts beautifully with the centred wisdom of the grown woman, looking back with a mixture of wistfulness, anger and sadness.

It sweeps the audience along on a journey through love, loss, misunderstanding and purpose. A wonderful debut and an absolutely essential play to see this Fringe.

Graeme Strachan