theSpace Triplex, Edinburgh – until 28 August 2021
Guest reviewer: Hugh Simpson
Wish List is an urgently contemporary piece from New Celts and Bone Struck Theatre, dealing with young carers, mental health and the gig economy in a way that never preaches and is always beautifully human.
Katherine Soper’s play won the Burntwood Prize for new writing in 2015 and it is easy to see why. The story of Tamsin, caring for her younger brother Dean and struggling to hold down a job at a certain ‘fulfilment centre’, is decidedly bittersweet, nuanced and beautifully written, presenting the horrors of ‘fitness for work’ assessments and zero hours contracts without hysteria or opting for propaganda. Eschewing any easy resolutions, it is a wonderfully considered piece.
The move from the original north west of England setting to Fife works well, not least because the presence of that huge building by the M90 in Dunfermline – although the lack of selective grammar schools in Scotland means Tamsin’s educational career does not make much sense here.
That is a minor criticism when the whole production works as well as it does. Chloe Johnson’s Tamsin is an excellent performance, both old beyond her years and still a teenager, torn between despair and hope.
Michael Robertson is similarly impressive as Dean, a 17-year-old in thrall to obsessive behaviour, unable to leave the house. What could be a cartoonish performance is instead heartbreakingly believable.
Also avoiding stereotypes is the character of ‘the Lead’, the targets-driven supervisor. Appearing at first a one-dimensional figure, he opens out into someone who is as much a victim of the system as those below him, and is played by Jack Elvey with delicacy.
A uniformly impressive cast is completed by Josh Dobinson as Luke, Tamsin’s younger colleague, an outwardly cheerful, multi-faceted character played with commendable realism.
Ian Dunn’s direction is admirably limpid and always at the service of the play. There are odd moments when transitions between scenes are overly fussy, and the constant projection of clock faces is not always necessary, but overall there is a genuine flow to events.
While this is in many ways an ‘issue play’, and certainly deals with those issues in a quietly devastating way, this is also an engaging and emotional work that is done great justice by an extremely talented cast.
Running time 1 hour 20 minutes (no interval)
theSpace Triplex, The Prince Phillip Building, Hill Pl, EH8 9DP (venue 38)
Sunday 8 – Saturday 28 August 2021 (even dates only)
11.30 am (even dates only)
Information and tickets at https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/wish-list
Chloe Johnson and Josh Dobinson. Pic: Bone Struck Theatre