The Last Bloom

JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE LAST BLOOM at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 14.4.14.
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3 stars ***

AS THE POPULATION ages, playwrights become increasingly preoccupied with the suffering of old people, and with the sheer cruelty of the treatment they often suffer. The problem, though, is that writers are still struggling to get beyond the obvious truth that old people are complex human beings who deserve respect and kindness, not patronising dismissal. And if this new play by Jamaican writer Amba Chevannes – the first in a 2014 series of Commonwealth plays, co-produced by Play, Pie And Pint and the Traverse – only nudges the story forward a little, it also comes as a subtle and well-written reminder that the problem of loneliness in old age is no longer confined to wealthy western countries.

So in an old folks’ home in Kingston, new arrival Cynthia finds herself sharing a room with Myrtle. At first, provoked by Myrtle’s hostility, Cynthia retaliates with boasts about her long, happy marriage, her five children, and her grandson; but as the days wear on, it becomes clear that Cynthia’s family is a wistful fantasy, and that Myrtle’s only son, now in America, has not contacted her in years.

In the end – after some painfully nasty incidents involving envy, theft and vandalism – Cynthia and Myrtle develop a tolerance for each other’s fantasies; Anni Domingo and Cleo Sylvestre make a beautiful job of capturing the plight of two women who are better off denying reality than trying to live with it. It’s a bleak conclusion; but it’s delivered, in Hamish Pirie’s production, with love, care, and a faint redeeming glow of sunlight, across fading lives.

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, tomorrow until Saturday.

ENDS ENDS

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