JOYCE MCMILLAN on WOMAN OF THE YEAR at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 25.9.13.
3 stars ***
IF EVER you want to see an Oran Mor show bristling with slightly unfulfilled potential, Stef Smith’s new monologue for the Play, Pie And Pint season is that play. Created by the young writer of the magnificent site-specific show Roadkill, Woman Of the Year is a shapely and perceptive piece about an ordinary 42-year-old woman of our times, who – to her own embarrassment – has been picked by her local council in Falkirk as their woman of the year, and their representative at an annual Scottish women’s event.
To Paula, though, her life seems far from exemplary; and through the long night before the award ceremony, in her Travelodge bedroom, she recounts what she sees as the strange chapter of accidents and unintended consequences which has brought her to her present life as a wife, mother, and working woman, using her prized art-school education not to create great works, but to help teenage kids with problems.
So Paula leads us through the messy story of her childhood bedwetting, teenage sex, student overdose, and extramarital affair, until she reaches the deepest trauma of all, surrounding the death of her best friend. Smith’s script is overlong and slightly repetitive, and Pauline Goldsmith’s performance as Paula is often inexplicably restless and distracting, twitching and thumping around on the slithery Travelodge bed as if someone had covered it with itching powder.
Yet in the final ten minutes – as the text settles to its storytelling task, and Goldsmith’s performance stills and focusses – we catch a glimpse of the huge latent power of this story of a modern woman pausing to reflect; and not only acknowledging life’s terrible tragedies, its unexpected gifts, and its habit of turning out not to be about us – but also finding a kind of permission to continue living, in what is, for all of us, only ever a work in progress.