Two Sisters

We live in turbulent and deranged times. David Greig’s new play, Two Sisters, at the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, is almost a dare: sanity, balance, respect and human warmth – available here.

Refreshing sanity, humour and wit

The stage backdrop is literally a tatty seaside postcard with the edges curling with age. This setting is the holiday park where Emma and her sister Amy spent their childhood summers. Emma is now a corporate lawyer and expectant mother who has rented a caravan retreat to write a novel (she has given herself a week). Unfortunately for Emma’s plans, Amy turns up, fleeing her husband after he has discovered her serial affairs.

The sisters discover that the current caretaker is Lance, Amy’s teenage love.

Prior to the play, we are encouraged to get in the right mood by answering a short questionnaire about being 16. These are collected and read out at various points in the play by young actors who perform as a chorus. One’s teenage years is one of the main mediations of the play, but any evocation of nostalgia is not in the sense of remembering (or falsely remembering) a happy time. The play is about the intensity of experience of those years (heartbreak as much as happiness), the sense of infinite potential, the dreams for the future, and the way these echo into later life’s decisions and restrictions.

As often with Grieg, the popular arts are integral to the lives and psyche of his characters (In this case, Swedish films, clothes, pot, and especially music.)

During the play, Amy’s backstory is highlighted. A failed rock star, the world of opportunities she dreamed of during her affair with Lance turns into a life history that Amy sees as clichés – exciting clichés – but clichés nevertheless. Her great fulfilment never arrived. But perhaps even successful rock stars feel the same.

Shauna Macdonald's performance as Amy is suitably charismatic, sharp and caustic. while Jess Hardwick’s Emma ('the sensible one’) navigates perfectly the conflicts underneath her self control, to reveal her dreams and temptations. Erik Olssen as Lance captures the alternative lifestyle chill that would be calm in any storm. The Scandinavian tinge in his accent was ideal for this – though not exactly accurate for a Fifer…

The chorus of young actors perform as, basically, themselves: individuals that alternate between embarrassed, awkward, clumsy, and surprisingly skilled and graceful. In other words, perfect in the role of exemplifying what it is to be young.

The play is not revolutionary in form or subject: there is no Sturm und Drang. Neither is it sentimental or trivial. The play’s strengths are its refreshing sanity, humour and wit, and Greig’s trademark warmth and insight into what might be called the ‘ordinary life’. After all, as the audience questionnaire responses show, every one of us lives the cliches of Everyman. And each Everyman is unique and meaningful.

The stage backdrop is a paradox. Yes, the holiday postcard is old and faded. Yet the memories are not shabby or false. That young life was just as vivid and life-shaping as remembered.

Reviews by Mark Harding

La Traviata

★★★★
Tron Theatre

Maggie & Me

★★★★
Lyceum Theatre

Blue Beard

★★★★
Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Marx in London

★★★★
Lyceum Theatre

Two Sisters

★★★★
Lyceum Theatre

Jekyll and Hyde

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
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Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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Performances

Location

The Blurb

"Is this Paradise?Holiday Heaven.I remember it all being brighter, somehow"

Two Sisters is a brand-new play by our artistic director David Greig - his first wholly original play to be staged anywhere in five years. Directed by Wils Wilson (Life Is A DreamCockpit), co-creator and director of the critically acclaimed The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart.

Emma and Amy return to their childhood paradise, a seaside caravan park. Yet, the park has changed, and their childhood now seems a distant memory.

With career anxieties and romantic complications, the resort resurfaces memories and reminds them how far, or not so far, they have come from their teenage selves.

Two Sisters is a story about looking back to your youth and looking forward to growing up. It’s a story about who we were when we were 16, who we became when we grow up, and the gap between these expectations.

A Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh and Malmö Stadsteater co-production.

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