Exploring liberty and repression in eighteenth century Scotland, Borderline’s latest show is captivating from the start and leaves you with a breathtaking final scene to carry you out into the streets.
We meet newly-weds Aneas and Isabel as they arrive on the island of St Kilda, Isabel immediately disliking the land and recognising how ill prepared she is to become a wife. Dwelling on her lack of experience, Isabel meets the abrupt and demanding Lady Rachel who pours out tales of abduction and abandonment and horrifies Isabel with her crude discussions and tendency for alcohol. Yet Isabel gradually becomes curious of the abused woman’s past and embraces life on the island as she disgards her shoes and talks of shedding scales like an animal.
Selena Boyack is superb as the historical figure Lady Rachel who clings desperately to the only chair on the island and thus the only material reminder of her life before her banishment from Edinburgh. Boyack’s movements consistently encapsulate Rachel’s rage and deteriorating mental state, her performance fascinating to watch and providing layers of humour and melancholy. Pamela Reid, Martin McBride and Ceit Kearney bring truthfulness to their roles (Isabel, Aneas and Oona respectively) but it is ultimately the character of Lady Rachel that develops the alluring atmosphere that grasps the play’s audience and refuses to let go.
Embracing the darkness of Scottish history and commenting on society’s treatment of women, madness, marriage and language, The Straw Chair is a thought provoking must see of 2015. Sue Glover’s play shines in the recent, and well deserved, attention it has received – long may it continue.