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Better Together review at Jack Studio, London – ‘ardent youthful idealism’

Scene from Better Together at Jack Studio Theatre, London. Photo: Tim Stubbs Hughes Scene from Better Together at Jack Studio Theatre, London. Photo: Tim Stubbs Hughes
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As the seventh winner of the Jack Studio Theatre’s annual Write Now competition for south London-based writers, Edinburgh-native David Weir’s family drama explores the repercussions of one of the most emotionally charged of recent political events, particularly the struggle of those on the losing side to find a constructive outlet for their frustrated energies.

In the wake of the Scottish independence referendum of 2014, Weir’s play, Better Together, follows the conflicts of Adam and Margaret, pragmatic ‘no’ voters and owners of a shipyard business in the depressed industrial town of Burntisland, Fife, and their two young adult daughters: the fiercely clever and ambitious Arlene, still smarting about having being too young to cast her defiant ‘yes’ vote and desperate to leave the country that rejected its chance to seize independence, and the boy-crazy, politically apathetic single mum Shona.

Weir’s writing, directed with homely warmth by Kate Bannister, is stronger on character and the evocation of setting than plot. In his depiction of a town reliant on a single industry and jeopardised by the whims of Westminster bureaucracy, it isn’t difficult to deduce where his sympathies lie, yet soapboxes are thankfully largely absent from the stage.

Played with ardent youthful idealism that’s on just the right side of being insufferable by Eleanor Morton and unexpected poignancy by Rosalind McAndrew, the chalk-and-cheese Arlene and Shona are ultimately more engaging than their parents. These sisters struggle to live together harmoniously but will be at a loss when unable to constantly wind each other up. Like the Union should it ever be dismantled, perhaps.

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Heartfelt kitchen-sink exploration of Scottish disillusionment boosted by convincing familial chemistry