In the land of bingo & newspaper competitions, the woman with a million Green Shield Stamps is queen.
A co-production with the National Theatre of Scotland, Quebec director Serge Denoncourt commands an impressive ensemble of Scottish theatrical talent in Martin Bowman & Bill Findlay’s translation of Michel Tremblay’s social comedy Les Belles-Souers.
Kathryn Howden and Karen Dunbar head up a cast of fifteen, each portraying the plight, struggle and camaraderie of 1960s working class women. Held together by an at times fragile shared bond of drudgery and toil, the women assemble in Germaine Lauzon’s flat to help her stick her boxes full of stamps into the books which will allow her to transform her home and – she believes – her life.
Denencourt weaves an insightful tapestry of broad humour and existential despair, and the quick-fire banter of the women is balanced with soliloquies which shed light into the characters’ inner thoughts and turmoils. Several enjoyable ensemble pieces pepper proceedings: rhythmic choruses extolling the virtues of bingo, or lamenting the never-ending cycle of the women’s lives.
Performances throughout are excellent. Dunbar’s bitter humour is a perfect foil to Howden’s misplaced airs and graces; Molly Innes as the long-suffering Therese Dubuc and Jo Cameron Brown as the Hyacinth Bucket-like Lisette de Courval also stand out.
Unsurprisingly, with so many characters given so much stage time, The Guid Sisters at times feels a little overlong; it is testament to the talent onstage and the power of Bowman and Findlay’s script however that even scenes which feel a little like filler are still enjoyable.
Despite its heavy dose of humour and wit, The Guid Sisters at its heart is an exploration of an aspect of society which still has enormous relevance today. And as it stamps its way towards its climax, it shows that the real winners in life are those that can maintain their pride in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges.
The Guid Sisters runs at the Lyceum until 13 October. Further details and ticket information are on the Lyceum’s website.