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Dangerous Giant Animals review at Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh – ‘Detailed and unadorned writing’

Christina Murdock in Dangerous Giant Animals Christina Murdock in Dangerous Giant Animals
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A lot of the writing in Dangerous Giant Animals is so good because it’s so taut and simple. Christina Murdock picks small episodes from growing up with a sister who has severe physical and learning difficulties, and turns them into a monologue about having to grow up too quickly.

Murdock semi-fictionalises events, so that she becomes Clare. The story is all told from Clare’s perspective, and explores her feelings about Kayla, and the way Kayla absorbed all her parents’ time and energy. Selfishness and guilt constantly clash.

It’s impossible to be selfless when you’re a young child, you just haven’t learned it yet, and Murdock gets that across so well. There are a couple of looser moments in the performance, but mostly Murdock is great, with easy and skilful shifts between her older and younger selves.

It’s a shame the end of the play makes explicit a message that had been so deftly left implicit throughout. There’s an epilogue in direct address to the audience that upsets the powerful ambivalence of the piece by schmaltzifying it.

Before that, Murdock had got across the ideas – that caring is draining and difficult, and sometimes violent – really cleverly through the selection of memories, the disordered narrative and, especially, the detailed and unadorned writing.

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Skilfully written monologue about growing up with a sister who has physical and learning disabilities