We don’t normally think of the elderly as sexual beings, but by tackling taboos like this Grae Cleugh’s latest comedy is as poignant as it is amusing.
Inspired by Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, Scottish Widows comprises four monologues that depict the lives of four people struggling to cope with the loss of their loved ones and the extreme lengths they go to when they crave human contact. The zany characters are performed brilliantly by the three-strong cast – together with Cleugh’s cleverly unfolding storytelling that keeps the audience on their toes, the play is captivating from start to finish (though perhaps one monologue too long).
Andrea Miller performs two monologues. She first appears as a sweet old lady who fondly remembers her husband with girlish glee and smutty humour. Her rambling storytelling is reminiscent of the warmth and comfort of listening to a grandparent, yet her obsession with her husband’s glass eye merely hints at the craziness of this seemingly sweet and innocent old lady. Later, Miller returns as a brash and glamorous lady who embarks on an affair with a younger man whilst on holiday, telling her tale with a glass of Martini Rosso firmly in her grasp. In both instances sex plays a large part and whilst that may at first seem uncomfortable, it’s symptomatic of Cleugh’s open and honest scriptwriting. “You’ve brought me back to life”, claims the second of Miller’s characters, proving there is life after death.
Being the only male in the cast, Billy Riddoch’s monologue shows it’s not always the women who are left behind. A sweet and unassuming old man, he recounts how after the death of his wife he was propositioned at the local boules club. Torn between that age old dilemma of the wife and the whore, he does what any good man would do: he dates both. Like a teenager flirting at a party, his story is similarly warm-hearted in its positive depiction of moving on.
It’s Laura Glover who provides the most arresting performance, however. Taking a turn for the melancholic, her story depicts a young widow who becomes addicted to the drug Temazepam to assist with her insomnia as it causes her to hallucinate her husband. All pale and gaunt, her powerful performance is frighteningly believable as Cleugh stretches his scriptwriting muscle and takes the play to its logical thematic conclusion. After all, whilst the central message of Scottish Widows is one of positivity, the death of a loved one leaves a gaping wound that cannot be easily healed.
Watch: Scottish Widows runs at the White Bear Theatre until May 24th.