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 The Theatreguide.London Review

In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.

Distance Remaining
Helen Milne Productions at Assembly, Edinburgh   August 2021

Helen Milne Productions' film is made up of three independent monologues. Written by Stewart Melton in different styles and filmed by Caitlin Skinner in different styles, the three stories and three characters have no connection to each other, least of all the theme of interrupted journeys implied by the title.

Essentially plotless character studies, they are best appreciated as showcases for three skilled and personable performers.

'Rug Rat' finds the elderly woman played by Dolina MacLennan lying on her floor, where she has fallen, perhaps from a stroke. She speaks her thoughts about, among other things, her dead dog, her drug-addicted daughter and the grandson getting out of prison today.

But none of these ever become as real as our admiration for the woman's pain-resisting determination to stand up or at least reach her telephone and get help.

There are obvious echoes here of one of Alan Bennett's original Talking Heads monologues, but writer and actress give the woman a reality and individuality in part through a sometimes impenetrable Scots accent that are fresh and engaging.

Oddly, given the strongly created reality, several overhead shots go out of their way to remind us that this is a film set and not a real room.

The same determined illusion-breaking opens 'Chase Scene,' set entirely within a car, but with opening and closing sequences exposing a mock-up car in a film studio with rear-projection scenes providing the supposed views through back and side windows.

The speaker played by Karen Dunbar has lost her job to Covid lockdowns and is for the moment a volunteer delivering groceries and medicines to shut-ins.

Between encounters with not-always-grateful recipients and a spot of road rage, she repeatedly rejects phone calls from one person while repeatedly trying to phone her former boss to get her job back and publishing comic pics in the vain hope of getting someone on her list to respond.

In contrast to the broken frames of the first two films, 'Here Boy' features overhead crane or drone shots of a vast expanse of deserted beach to establish that we are not in a studio.

Reuben Joseph plays a teenager whose dog has run off, leading him to grumble about his life of troubles and indignities, including his parents' dragging him away from his city friends to live on this bleak island. In another style break, this is the only one of the three to employ voiceovers for the lad's thoughts.

Will the old lady get up? Will the woman get her job back? Will the boy find his dog? Not all these questions are answered, nor are we given any real reason for the three stories to be presented together. But we get to spend about twenty minutes in the company of each, and that may be reward enough.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of  Distance Remaining - Asembly Edinburgh 2021