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Finding Nana review at Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh – ‘smart and understated’

Finding Nana at Pleasance Courtyard Finding Nana at Pleasance Courtyard

The heart of grief is absence, the not-there-ness of someone close, the reduction of their living being into objects that have fallen into obsolescence and memories that fade or mutate.

It’s that truth that promising writer Jane Upton has threaded through this deceptive one-woman show, which promises sepia-tinted sentiment and delivers something far harder and more truthful.

Phoebe Frances Brown plays Jane, a woman driven into a rut by the death of her grandmother. She reminisces, laments and plans a journey to childhood holiday-haunts on the Isle of Wight.

She’s desperately trying to push back the tide of time, but in serious danger of drowning in nostalgia. She’s chirpily adolescent, but she’s also 30, and suffering from arrested development.

Finding Nana is a gentle play, self-consciously small, but opening up into surprising panoramas of grief and longing. Jane is struggling to hold onto every smell, every sound, every moment spent with her Nana, and her story cross-fades with the deterioration of Nana herself, a once-wild woman in the process of disappearing, erased by dementia.

There’s some ingenious design from Sarah Perks, and a surprisingly bleak and epic sound design from Arun Gosh too, rounding out what really is a smart and understated Fringe find.

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Quietly moving account of a long lost Nana has more to offer than a nostalgia trip