***** (5 stars)
Morna Young was named as 2019’s Scots Writer of the Year, and Babs shows exactly how well she deserves this accolade. From the get-go Bethany Tennick’s Lisa has us in the palm of her hand as she pours out her rage and frustration at her treatment at the hands of her bestie, Shelley.
Lisa’s entire life revolves around her annual holiday with Shelley: there’s the planning, the anticipation, the holiday, the recovery period – and then the cycle repeats, filling her life with meaning. But this year something’s gone wrong: Shelley Has Found Gareth and wants to go on holiday with him instead. Lisa can’t stand Gareth, and feels betrayed – is she going to have to spend her longed-for holiday alone in Aberdeen instead of rampaging around the hotspots of Ibiza??
Suddenly she is offered the chance to win a forest sanctuary retreat with “renowned oracle Babs”. To her astonishment she wins, and sets off with her exactly 22-kilo suitcase and her beloved guitar – but rather than finding herself being pampered at a luxury spa, she finds herself, with two rather weird female companions, at a ramshackle hut in the woods… Did it really just turn itself around to let them in? Has it really got chickens’ feet? What is going on????
Bethany Tennick is a graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and goodness me is she talented! Actress, musician, singer and composer, she pours out her heart in song and vibrant, crackling Doric, while Shelley, Gareth, Karen, Willow, Vassilissa and Babs herself come to life before our eyes.
The songs are simply brilliant. At first they are a defiant wall she puts up around herself – she only sings for herself, and thinks they express the real Lisa, a feisty Aberdonian quine who knows who she is and what she wants. It takes her experiences with Babs in the forest to make her realise what she is refusing to let herself see, what she’s spent her life denying and covering up, what the truth hiding behind those walls really is, and what she really wants her life to be.
The script is equally outstanding – yet another illustration of the incredible vitality of the Doric – and had the audience laughing from the very beginning. Earthy, vivid, passionate words and turns of phrase strip away ‘Edinburgh politeness’ and get down to the very bones of feelings, opinions, thoughts, desires and carry us along with Lisa on her journey of self-discovery.
Babs was an hour of pure magic, and the audience loved it. I’m so glad my sluggish bus got me to the Traverse just in time to slip into my seat before the house lights went down – it would have been a tragedy to miss this modern take on an old fairy tale, a perfect illustration of the timeless truths these tales encapsulate.
A Play, a Pie and a Pint: Babs,Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Run Ended.