The ‘here’ in Glaswegian poet and writer Stewart Conn’s 1967 play refers to a crumbling tenement of the sort that was, at the time he was writing, being demolished to make way for the questionable improvement of high-rise estates, like the infamous Gorbals.
In this English premiere, tenant Martha (Jenny Lee), is a lonely, impoverished widow whose poorly maintained roof is about to cave in. Through the wall, her snooty neighbour Amie (Eileen Nicholas) is concealing her bitterness at her reduced circumstances by arguing with the local vicar, MacWhurrie (Joshua Manning), and writing increasingly desperate notes to her nephew.
This is the sort of tender, understated play that reads beautifully on the page – but as a piece of live theatre, it lacks drama. Martha’s memories are recounted in flashbacks, distracting from what little present action there is. The problem isn’t really that not much happens, but that we’re never given a sharp enough sense of what’s really at stake.
Still, there’s much to enjoy in this thoughtful production, not least Alex Marker’s atmospheric design and Susan Kulkarni’s period-perfect costumes, doubly admirable for the fact they were no doubt produced on a shoestring budget; and some excellent naturalistic performances, especially from Lee and Nicholas. Laura Barnett