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All the Lights Are On review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘affecting drama about fatal illness’

All the Lights Are On at Summerhall, Edinburgh

Kaisa Lundan’s All the Lights Are On has to be one of the saddest shows at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Staged as part of Summerhall’s From Start to Finnish programme, which celebrates all things Finland, it follows Emmy, a 30-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer, and the impact her deterioration has on those around her.

It is really, really sad. Tear-jerkingly so. Flitting back in forth in time and between home and hospice, it tracks the disintegration of Emmy’s mental and physical faculties, and the gradual evaporation of her husband’s patience and her mother’s hope.

Drawing on Lundan’s personal experience – her father was diagnosed with a fatal illness when the theatremaker was just 13 – the play mixes duologues with direct address, meditating on love, hope and what we leave behind when we’re gone.

Julian Garner’s straightforward production is wonderfully still and unafraid of quiet. It lingers powerfully on moments of silence, allowing the play’s weighty themes to echo unhindered. There’s only one misstep – a jokey gameshow skit playing bingo with Emmy’s cancer symptoms.

It’s well acted by the Scottish cast. Ashley Smith’s Emmy is particularly good – it’s genuinely painful to watch her collapse from vibrant wife and daughter to diminished and delusional ghost.

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Tear-jerking drama about brain cancer featuring affecting performances