Fibres, Traverse Theatre, Review

Rating (out of 5)
The arm and head of an older woman are shown, hanging out washing on a clothes line.
Show details
Stellar Quines Theatre Company co-production with Citizens Theatre
Frances Poet (Writer); Jemima Levick (Director); Jen McGinley (Set and Costume Design); Emma Jones (Lighting Design); Patricia Panther (Sound Design); Louise Shephard (Assistant Director); Action on Asbestos (Support); Citizens Theatre workshop (Props, Sets & Costumes); Jemima Levick (Artistic Director & CEO, Stellar Quines); Dominic Hill (Artistic Director, Citizens Theatre); Rebecca Doggett (Producer, Job Share); Rhea Lewis (Producer, Job Share); Viviane Hullin (Fundraising & Development Associate); Erin McGee (Company Administrator); Rosie Priest (Creative Learning Associate)
Maureen Carr (Beanie); Ali Craig (Pete); Suzanne Magowan (Lucy); Jonathan Watson (Jack)
Running time

The history behind the writing of this play is particularly fascinating but heart-breaking – based on a chance encounter, writer Frances Poet has taken up the case of asbestos-related cancers that often caused the death of couples due to their close family relationships. Scotland with its sad statistic of having the leading mesothelioma incidences in the world – makes an apt setting for the play, looking at a working class husband and wife team, their daughter and her boss and the impact that cancer – and subsequent grief – have on an individual. There is also a generational aspect to the story, with the reason for couples developing asbestos-related cancers being that the wife, in the main, was the person who washed her husband’ clothes and thus infecting herself.

Frances Poet’s writing is funny and emotive, with some well-placed gallows humour and one-liners mixed in with the content, enough to ensure that the piece remains vibrant and engaging. As audience members we could take more of the parents’ story and unfolding of bad news. There are some lovely touches in those times where the history does unfold; it feels like this could have added to the scope of impact. Jemima Levick’s direction is specific and very clear: the movement between scenes is choreographed like a dance routine, which allows a sense of place within Jen MacGinley’s sparse but effective set. There are no walls here; what comes tumbling down is the emotional impact.

The four-strong ensemble work very well together: there is a real sense of family and the impact of loss for all, no matter how that arises. While the characters could have more detail to their backgrounds, they feel recognisable, ordinary people in extra-ordinary circumstances. What is shown well is the way in which love is demonstrated without the words being spoken, by the things done for others, in how care is taken in looking after the other person. Fibres is not only the name of the play, but a description of the roles played out – the laundry woman to the family ties, to the asbestos that causes the biggest impact, a cleverly connected nomenclature from Poet.

This is an interesting look at the human impact of exploitation – by employers of those working in dangerous situations – through loss, grief and the way in which love binds us.

Times: Wednesday 30 October 2019 @ 8.00pm, then on tour until 2 November

Tickets: £5 -£17

Photo: Stellar Quines