We all make lists: to do lists, shopping lists, present lists… They are one of the best ways of keeping on top of one’s life and making sure that nothing is forgotten. But the unnamed protagonist in Jennifer Tremblay’s haunting monologue takes this a little too far. Having recently moved to the countryside, she is struggling to adjust. She finds the trees menacing, the wind terrifying and her husband and children hard to manage. So, she begins to obsessively make lists as a coping mechanism, writing down things she knows she’d remember to do anyway (such as the laundry), just to give herself the satisfaction of ticking each item off – to give herself proof that her life is under control.
A sinister and gripping play with extreme power.
Dressed simply in jeans and a floral cardigan, Maureen Beattie captures this woman’s fragile state of mind exceptionally well. She embraces the character’s full spectrum of emotion – from her generally vulnerable and desperate disposition, to the outbursts of rage and jealousy, all the while showing her struggle to maintain composure. It is an impressive, awe-inspiring performance.
The stage is set well with a blue-green iron backdrop, which instantly evokes the harshness of a barren, lonely landscape. The effective management of light and dark onstage enhances the sense of entrapment, including particularly eerie shadows of trees cast across the character’s face.
As the play progresses, it becomes evident that neglecting the list has caused events to take a fateful turn. Therefore the woman comes to rely even more heavily on her lists to ensure that nothing goes wrong again. At this point in the play, something doesn’t quite ring true. Perhaps the groundwork for the list obsession needs to be clearer at the start, or perhaps the events leading up to the neglecting of the list need to be more obvious. Nevertheless, this is a sinister and gripping play with extreme power. Under the lights, Maureen Beattie’s piercing blue eyes glow at us, ghostlike in the darkness. We, the audience, are the judges of her actions. Can she be forgiven?