Paisley Arts Centre
The snow is falling at the start of Frances Poet’s new play, which addresses the ongoing industrial scandal of asbestos poisoning in the workplace. The disease caused the deaths of thousands due to their failure of big businesses to provide adequate on-site protection from a deadly substance which moved into the home by way of dirty overalls, also killing the women who washed them.
The play focuses on Jack, a would-be comedian who survived the workers’ occupation of the Glasgow shipyards, only to be sentenced, as he puts it, to another decade exposed to asbestos. His wife Beanie gave up here ambitions to wash up after Jack, only for all her dreams to be left hung out to dry by her labours.
Their daughter, Lucy, meanwhile, has dirty laundry of her own to deal with, as well her boss in the fibre optics company she works for. Through these four criss-crossing lives is woven a thread of everyday tragedy that spans the generations in its sad legacy.
It would have been easy for Poet to punch this final contribution to the Citizens Theatre company’s Citizens Women season this year into a tub-thumping polemic. But this is a more complex affair that largely unfolds in Jemima Levick’s elegiac production through a series of cut-up monologues. Suzanne Magowan’s Lucy only communicates with her parents through a fitful dream-state, while they only seem to come fully together after death. It is Lucy’s relationship with Ali Craig’s Pete that brings her back down to earth.
The result of this co-production with the Stellar Quines company is an intriguing hybrid of social commentary, sit-com and ghost play. This is led by a pair of moving and seriously funny performances by Jonathan Watson as Jack and Maureen Carr as Beanie. As they move through Jen McGinley’s domestic set, on which a tumble of clothes is slowly but surely put into some kind of order, the ties that bind survive in a haunting and all too human evocation of life and death.
The Herald, October 23rd 2019