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 The Theatreguide.London Review

I Didn't Always Live Here
Finborough Theatre Spring 2013

This earnest and very old-fashioned play works very hard to make its simple and not particularly original point, and the efforts of a dedicated cast can make it come alive only in scattered and generally peripheral moments. 

Written in 1967, Stewart Conn's drama feels much older, and you will repeatedly feel you have seen bits and pieces of it before even if you haven't.

A Glasgow widow in a crumbling tenement lets her mind drift into the past, and a stream of consciousness moves back and forth among the poverty-ridden 1930s, the fear-coloured war years, the grief-dominated postwar period and the uncertain present. 

Despite the title, everything takes place in this flat – it is a snooty neighbour who feels she has come down in the world – and everything is unremittingly bleak. 

The Glaswegian working class are the salt of the earth and deserve better than they've got – that pretty much sums up the play, and it says it about that subtly. 

Except for a couple of thugs met briefly in the 1930s (and we know they're baddies because they hurt a dog), all the working class characters are kind, feeling, empathetic, patriotic and hard-working, while the one middle class character is blindly self-centred. 

Nothing good ever happens to any of the good people and yet they struggle on, demanding nothing (The heroine is afraid to ask the landlord to repair the leaking roof) and sinking ever further into nothingness. 

Now, that is a legitimate vision for a playwright to convey, however many times it's been said before. But one could wish that Stewart Conn had said it with a bit more skill, subtlety, depth or originality and had given his director and actors more to work with. 

Here, a stageful of hard-working actors can't find much beyond the clichd surface in their characters, while director Lisa Blair is unable to create a reality or sustain a rhythm to the ponderous text.

Jenny Lee carries most of the weight of the drama as the widow, fighting a text that makes her repeatedly lose and gain decades in age, and most successful as the sad and frightened old woman trying to retain a culturally obligatory cheeriness.

Carl Prekopp has moments as her late husband, and Alice Haig as a caring social worker and Joshua Manning as a young priest come closest to creating characters with unexpected sides or shadings to them.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - I Didn't Always Live Here - Finborough Theatre 2013   

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