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The Last of the Pelican Daughters review at Pleasance, Edinburgh – ‘beautiful moments’

The Wardrobe Ensemble's The Last of the Pelican Daughters. Photo: Graeme Braidwood

On the eve of their late mother’s birthday the Pelican sisters – Joy, Storm, Sage and Maya – return to the family home to celebrate and remember her. The mood is already uneasy when Storm (Jesse Meadows) disrupts things further by suggesting she should have a greater share of the inheritance given that she spent the last two years caring for their mother as she was dying.

The Wardrobe Ensemble’s latest devised play, directed by Jesse Jones and Tom Brennan, is particularly good at evoking the way the girls’ mother is still very present, in the house and in their lives; they all take turns to don her red dress, to briefly become her.

Gradually a picture is built up of a woman who was disinclined to follow society’s rules – one of their fondest memories is of accompanying her on a shoplifting spree – but who also benefited from a level of financial security that none of them will ever know.

Each of the siblings has their own set of issues, though some of the characters are better defined than others. Ben Vardy is on particularly strong form as Dodo, the awful American boyfriend of the youngest Pelican sister.

The show as a whole encapsulates devised playmaking at its most exciting and frustrating. Too many different elements have been thrown into the mix, to the point that the central question of the will gets a bit lost amid the plot twists.

They bring in a new character at the halfway point and the way they’ve chosen to represent the family’s frail, elderly grandmother – as a skeleton in a wheelchair – is pretty questionable, but when things work well, it’s just wonderful. The show captures the little rifts and rivalries that exist between the sisters and it has an ace up its sleeve in the form of a gorgeous, heart-flooding movement sequence.

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Moving, devised play about the complexity of sibling relationship that contains some beautiful moments