Replay review at Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh – ‘absorbing and bittersweet’

Nicola Wren in Replay at Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh. Photo: Jamie Knighton Nicola Wren in Replay at Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh. Photo: Jamie Knighton

Dancing along the line between rehashing the past and recapturing the positivity of youth, Replay is a thoughtful character piece from writer and performer Nicola Wren. Following on from a promising 2015 debut with 501 Things I Do In My Bedroom, this simple story follows a workaholic police officer confronting some unresolved issues after she discovers a tape recording her brother made for her before his death at a young age.

A warm, expressive performer, Wren conveys her nameless character’s conflicting emotions with clarity, slipping smoothly between the loose-limbed openness of a precocious child and the intense, ambitious adult she becomes. Her script has a pleasingly naturalistic rhythm, complete with a tendency to ramble, but nonetheless packed with smart callbacks and loops of repetition.

Director George Chilcott allows Wren’s performance to speak for itself, with a sparse staging and economical movements making the most of a small space. Though underused, Max Perryment’s intricate soundscape blends together ambient noise – laughter, whirring washing machines, compressed snatches of music – to great effect. Frequently repeated fragments of James’ 1980s earworm Sit Down embed the track in the audience’s heads long before the song’s significance is revealed in the play’s tender, memorable conclusion.

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Absorbing, bittersweet monologue from promising solo performer Nicola Wren