In a cathartic 100 minutes, Alison Peebles presents an unflinching and unapologetic theatrical response to her condition in National Theatre of Scotland’s My Shrinking Life.
Diagnosed with MS in 2006, Peebles uses the piece to examine her own feelings, as well as those of her friends, family, colleagues and critics. Directed in impressionistic style by Lies Pauwels, Peebles shares the stark and soulless stage with a trio of young physical performers. Personifying the reactions of those around her, as well as her own memories and inner demons, the effect of their stylised dance and physicality provides an affecting contrast to Peebles’ own – and equally expressive – performance.
Mixing monologue, physical theatre, visual imagery and dance, My Shrinking Life at times feels disjointed and lacking in overall direction. Peebles’ heartfelt and unsentimental addresses to the audience are striking and poignant, and the physicality of her co-performers is impressive. At other times, it feels like too much is going on at once, sometimes lessening scenes which could otherwise have had a much more powerful impact.
Near the end, Peebles freely admits My Shrinking Life has no worthy message, no real point to ‘get to’. Yet the theme of dealing with the hand you’re dealt with dignity and grace shines through the piece, in what amounts to an eloquent and defiant confrontation of the often harsh realities of life.
My Shrinking Life’s run at the Traverse has ended.