The auditorium is a knife-edge between worlds, with the audience sitting in delicate balance. Theatre can be immersive to a transcendental level and reality can ebb, the world constructed on stage becoming the only one that matters. That said, the balance is easily disturbed. Script-in-hand and an informal setting could be seen as hindrances, reminding the audience of the fact that what they are seeing is not real. This was disproved tenfold by Lifelines at Traverse Theatre.
An ‘evening of work by the writers of the Thrawn Craws collective’, this was theatre at its entertaining best. Eight short pieces by five evidently talented writers, brought to life with warmth and sincerity by four actors. Despite initial reservations, it was perhaps the script-in-hand delivery that leant the performances such wonderful immediacy. The writing was also unhindered by unnecessary ornament, with no set, simple lighting and props and costumes used in a refreshingly minimal way, a garish duvet proving the only real distraction.
The writing was of a universally good standard, with no single piece falling short. Particularly impressive was the opening Monologue, ‘Free the West Lothian Forty’ by Grace Cleary. As a former employee at a care-home, I felt a particular affinity to the voice of the care-worker. It is often through humour that we come to terms with the bleakest realities, so it was refreshing to see that reflected on the stage.
Sheila Donald and John Shedden were the standout pairing of the evening, and in both of their pieces together they captured a chemistry that grows from experience, rather than the heat of first love. In contrast, there was an electricity to the performances given by Mary Gapinski, who served double duty as both writer and actor. It was likely due to this that she handled the script with such confidence and vitality.
There is no shame to going to the theatre for a good time, there should be no obligation to feel like you have left spiritually awakened. Lifelines was not only good entertaining theatre, it had a depth of colour and I left feeling better than I did beforehand.