The Jennifer Tremblay Trilogy Part II: The Carousel

The Carousel, the middle play of The Jennifer Tremblay Trilogy, is a frantic, flashy piece of theatre with a strong performance at the heart of it. A play for which the programme has a family tree explaining the connections between the piece’s characters is always going to be somewhat difficult to keep up with, and the script covers a whole host of characters and times. The brief premise is that The Woman (Maureen Beattie) – the same woman in all three parts of the Trilogy – is driving across Canada to visit her dying mother, the journey conjuring up a number of memories and questions about her familial history.

A complex and moving story with a compelling performance throughout.

Beattie has an impressive sense of control over the dense script, making changes between characters of wildly different ages within seconds of one another. Generally these characters are well created, although her performance as a young child does become somewhat repetitive at points, with widened eyes used as something of a short-cut to seeming young.

There are some lovely touches to the direction: conjuring up a childhood ‘purple two-wheeler’ bike by ringing a bell, using feathers as snow stick out as nice moments. However the fast-paced style of the script, with its numerous characters and shifts in time, means that the direction is sometimes lacking in clarity a little: by the time it has become clear which story we are following, the play has moved on, leaving the audience behind it.

Where the production excels is in its technical aspects. Philip Pinsky’s compositions and Jeanine Byrne’s lighting design is accomplished and striking throughout The Carousel. From snap changes to allow for a change in location to flashing lights to create the busy 138 highway, the technical design of the play is consistently delightful. Similarly the set (John Byrne), seemingly built out of broken leftovers from a long departed fun-fair, is striking in its design.

The Carousel is demanding in its form and content, with the opening minutes vaguely bamboozling, but sticking with Tremblay’s writing reveals a complex and moving story with a compelling performance throughout.  

Reviews by Joanna Bowman


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The Blurb

Each play in this trilogy is a story in its own right, but together they form a powerful piece of theatre. Nothing can stop the carousel. A woman is on an emotional journey into her past and it takes her through a labyrinth of memories. Can she reconcile herself with her discoveries? Winner of Scotsman Fringe First Award 2014. 'A stunning turn from Maureen Beattie' (Times). Translated by Shelley Tepperman. Starring Maureen Beattie. Design by John Byrne. Part of Made in Scotland Showcase.