June 28-30, 2019
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
Pink House is a new play by New Yorker, Madison Pollack, produced by Edinburgh theatre company Paradigm Lab. I got to see a preview before the show runs at Edinburgh Fringe this August, and whilst first performance nerves were certainly palpable I enjoyed the production a lot, especially Pollack’s thoughtful and emotive script.
Pink House explores the new relationship between a Jewish grandmother, Shira, who immigrated to America as a child and her adopted teenage grandchild, Peri, who she only meets after the death of her estranged daughter. As well as presenting the new co-existence of Shira and Peri and the seemingly insurmountable gulf between them, we see flashbacks of Shira’s childhood. These flashbacks depict a house of women and girls: Shira, her mother, aunt and sister, all with contrasting personalities. And this all-female cast adds to Pink House’s distinctive tone and perspective. The overall structure is chronological, but lacks rigidity, so that understanding of what has happened and is happening unfolds for the audience as the play goes on.
The strongest aspect of Pink House is its tender exploration of ideas around memory, family and what divides and connects people. The play deliberates over what makes someone family, and whether family is something you can choose. While Peri’s mother chose her through adopting her and did not choose Shira, but Peri and Shira are forced together through family connections. Pink House explores Anti-Semitism specifically through these questions of family, divisions and connections. Shira is faced with the childhood memories she has oppressed through the voices she hears (perhaps through senility) and the recordings on an old wire recorder, which her sister made “for posterity”. Memory becomes complicated when you are displaced from your family and culture by immigration and the repressing of trauma. For Shira this bottling up has resulted in cruelty to herself and those around her. And as we see throughout the performance, that certain things deserve to be remembered.
The abstract, minimalist set consisting of metal wire boxes which could be moved to create tables, chairs and cupboards, achieved the perfect balance of simplicity and flexibility required of a festival show. Although the movement between scenes was a little stilted it is sure to pick up pace by the run in August. The abstraction of the set pieces and how they are interacted with juxtaposes beautifully with the more concrete descriptions of the family home settings.
Alice Jackson had quite a challenge portraying both the younger and older Shiras. With no time for a costume change, let alone aging make up, as the scenes flow from past to present, it is all down to Jackson to make the shift clear to the audience. While there was a notable and satisfying change in her interactions with other cast members it would have been nice to see more from her physicality. Ania Myszkowska was particularly enigmatic as Rebecca, Shira’s younger sister, her energetic and youthful performance contributing a lot to the tenderness of the production and the heart-breaking revelations of the family’s experiences.
Pink House has a very original voice, a thoughtful script and some great performances and stage craft. If you are looking for some new writing that is more thought-provoking than provocative this Fringe, then I would recommend getting a ticket.