The Carousel

Death always makes us think about life. In Québécoise dramatist Jennifer Tremblay’s new play, an unnamed Canadian woman tending to her dying mother is moved to ask questions about three generations of her female relatives and try to make sense of how her family history affects her place in the world. As she delves into the past she uncovers dark secrets of alcoholism, violence, abuse and abandonment which throws her into turmoil and threatens the hitherto secure relationship with her own two sons.

It’s disappointing to leave the theatre with no real sense of what you’ve just witnessed, but sadly what little plot there is feels overshadowed by the complicated method of delivery.

Maureen Beattie is exceptional. Not only does she play the troubled main character, but she’s also mother, grandmother, child, grandfather and uncle, seamlessly switching between roles. One moment she hurtles around the stage in childish glee, the next she’s an old man wondering where he has left his bottle of drink.

But even the eminently watchable Beattie cannot save Tremblay’s play. She is trying to write about mothers and daughters, about their intertwining relationship, the idea of “succession and source,” but the text is too dense, too convoluted and simply too much of the central character’s stream of consciousness for the audience to follow. It was difficult to work out whether what Tremblay was trying to say was either new or interesting.

There was some intriguing symbolism, however, particularly of gates opening and closing and of the Quebec Route 138, the major road on which so many incidents affecting the lives of those in this family have taken place. There was some sense of the wild, abandoned Canadian landscape, but Tremblay could have developed this further.

Aside from Beattie’s performance, perhaps the best thing about this production was John Byrne’s set design and Jeanine Byrne’s lighting. There was fairground music, there were twinkling lights, there were flashing mirrors and optical illusions. There was a real feel of both the wonder, darkness and threat of the fair, and of the enticing nature of the carousel in its centre.

It’s disappointing to leave the theatre with no real sense of what you’ve just witnessed, but sadly what little plot there is feels overshadowed by the complicated method of delivery. 

Reviews by Laura Mac

Assembly Checkpoint

Dame Diana Rigg: No Turn Unstoned

★★★
Traverse Theatre

The Carousel

★★
Assembly George Square Studios

Suzi Ruffell: Social Chameleon

★★★★
theSpace on North Bridge

Hold for Three Seconds

★★★
Gilded Balloon

Outings

★★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

Chef

★★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Nothing can stop the carousel. While driving to her dying mother’s bedside, a woman calls upon the spirit of her dead grandmother. So begins a quest through a labyrinth of memories. The Carousel is a journey that shatters the certainties of a woman marked by a pitiless landscape. Ultimately joy prevails, in a final ride on the carousel. A poignant one-woman play by celebrated Quebec dramatist Jennifer Tremblay, writer of The List, a Fringe sell-out for Stellar Quines, winner of Fringe First and Herald Angel Awards. Directed by Muriel Romanes and starring award-winning actress Maureen Beattie. www.stellarquines.com