First published in The Times, Saturday August 22 2015
The Latin phrase omne trium perfectum (the notion that everything that comes in threes is complete) is being put to the test at the Fringe this year. Not only is the award-winning Scottish theatre company Stellar Quines premiering its production of The Deliverance – the final instalment in a trilogy written by the Québécoise playwright Jennifer Tremblay – audiences have the opportunity to see the three instalments back-to-back for the first time.
Like The List and The Carousel, which the same company brought to Edinburgh in 2012 and 2014 respectively, this final chapter, translated from French to English by Shelley Tepperman, revolves around a powerful performance from Maureen Beattie as an unnamed woman dealing with the emotional consequences of certain significant episodes in her life. Although certain characters and the wintry landscape of northern Québec recur throughout, The Deliverance, in which the woman is called to her mother’s deathbed, can be enjoyed as a standalone piece. Unlike The Carousel, which at times threatened to buckle under the weight of its own subjectivity, this monologue focusing on a dying woman’s need for reconciliation with the son she hasn’t seen in years, has all the polish and clarity of the best short stories.
Beattie is remarkable as the narrator, whether recalling in dispassionate terms her relationship with her tyrannical stepfather, Rémy, or sitting in a lonely church indulging in a one-sided moment of reckoning with the god that has held so much power over generations of women in her family. Throughout Muriel Romanes’s beautifully paced production, Beattie interacts seamlessly with John Byrne’s set: a fun house of concealed doors and coloured lights that also drolly references kitsch Catholic iconography.
The switches between light and shade in Tremblay’s writing find echoes in Philip Pinsky’s insinuating music and Jeanine Byrne’s superb lighting designs. The play’s final sequence in particular is quietly haunting, with Beattie once again lending the story quite extraordinary conviction.