Performed at the Macrobert Arts Centre, Netting is a short play which is set in a rural and northern coastal village in Scotland.
The story follows a woman in her 50s-60s and her two very different daughters in law, as they struggle with the tragic death of their three fisherman husbands who were lost at sea.
In the months following the sinking, the women struggle to deal with their new lives. Kitty, the mother in law keeps busy and tiers herself out as she fusses around and tries to not think about her loss. Alison, one of the bereaved daughters in law, sits and mopes about indoors, refusing to get out of bed, put on clean clothes, help around the house or look after her young son. However, Sylvia, the other daughter in law, is back at work and maintaining a chirpy, can-do attitude and says she is determined to move on with her life.
But one night, a policeman comes to call and tells the family that a body has been found. Suddenly everything changes as the women wonder who it is. As they settle down to a wee dram together, tensions rise as they try to hide their heartache and long for their own man to be returned so he can be buried and remain close, rather than lost at sea.
The play which is written and performed in Doric, was truly heart-warming and real. At many times it was openly or subconsciously funny, and at others, it visited dark realities. Even although the play concentrated on the theme of loss and how different cope, it also touched on the concepts of family, hidden rivalry, performativity in relationships and the isolation one can feel in rural communities.
Netting was quick paced and lively throughout. The script left no space for wasted lines or irrelevant action. The entire mise-en of the scenes was purposeful and dynamic, adding to the calibre of the performance.
My only criticism would be that it could have been longer. Fair enough, it was a short play and that was its purpose. However, if it had been fleshed out in a constructive way then it could have added depth to the play and a greater chance to explore characters, backstories and themes. It did serve well in providing snippets of the women’s lives, histories and emotions, and this added a strong degree of clarity, focus and determined intent. Maybe it was because I enjoyed it so much, but I would have liked a little more time to take the story further, either into the past or future.
But regardless of the length of the play, Netting was an unusual but effective piece of theatre which had raw chemistry and a carefully crafted tone that said so much within a short space of time and with humble assistance. It is a play worth seeing if you want to consider black comedy and the concerns of costal women.
By Caroline Malcolm