The Straw Chair
Borderline Theatre Company & Hirtle Productions
Eden Court – One Touch Theatre – Inverness
Borderline Theatre Company’s new presentation of The Straw Chair, which was last performed in 1988 has reawakened this script by renowned Scottish playwright Sue Glover (Bandages) and through its extensive tour of Scotland has brought it to audiences in the Highlands & Islands for the first time.
The story is based on Lady Grange (Selina Boyack) who was banished to a number of Scottish Islands including Hirta (St Kilda) by her unfaithful husband Lord Grange for being a problem wife. Imprisoned on this remote rural island, a far cry from her civilised life in Edinburgh she descends into madness and drink, her only comfort is a straw chair which she carries around with her. The arrival of the newly married minister Aneas (Martin McBride) and his teenage wife Isabel (Pamela Reid) provides a hope of getting a message to the outside world of her abduction and an unlikely friendship is struck up between Lady Grange and Isabel
Selina Boyaks imposing performance of Lady Grange as a wild, unkempt, outspoken, drunk and sex obsessed woman full of anger and frustration is in contrast to the austere Aneas who’s only initial concern is converting the Pagan inhabitants to Christianity. It is his young, sheltered wife Isabel who has the compassion and understanding to realise that Lady Grange is in most need of their help. The grounded character Oona (Ceit Kearney), who is an islander, paid to look after Lady Grange provides a balance between these opposing parts.
This is in no way a fast paced drama, but the characters slowly unfold and develop, it depicts how living on the beautiful but harsh environment of Hirta changes them, we watch Isabel caught between being the dutiful wife and standing up for her own convictions and how Aneas softens and is somewhat converted himself by the lives and values of the islanders. The evolving of the friendships and interaction between Lady Grange, Isabel and Oona, especially when they all get “intoxicated” on stolen brandy, not only provided humour but signifies how these strong females are striving for freedom and liberation in a time when women had little rights and were constrained by society.
Reviewer : Zoe Gwynne