NE W Pl AY LAVENDER BLUE Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, Mon 14 Jan-Sat 2 Feb.

If, like me, you feel the countryside is best viewed through a windscreen, your perspective might be confirmed by Grace Barnes’ new play at the Lyceum. There are some pretty ugly things going on within the family in this rural Borders drama.

Barnes knows about remote places, hailing as she does from Shetland. Her return to Scotland a couple of years back, after graduating from an Australian film school and spending ten years down under, has already brought us a quietly intelligent and strongly dramatic script in Wave Me Goodbye, which remained (unfairly) largely unseen for its run at Theatre Workshop last season.

Lavender Blue is about an apparently respectable upper-middle class family, which among several siblings has raised twin sisters. One of these disappears in her latter teens and is never seen again. Twelve years later, the remaining sister raises questions about her fate, prompting disturbing admissions and evasions from her ostensibly respectable, but actually profoundly dysfunctional kin.



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Twin piques in Lavender Blues

‘This is the kind of story that can only be told about an upper-class family,’ says Barnes. ‘If the events that have occurred happened in a working-class family, we’d know the story in hours. As it is, things have been left unsaid or glossed over for years. These are people who are at the centre of their community and the appearance of respectability is everything to them. In these small communities everyone knows everyone, and it’s impossible to keep a secret once it’s out. The family at the centre are the kind of people who open fétes and make jam, they really can’t deal with what’s happened}

Barnes talks about the play, which is directed by Muriel Romanes, like a psychological journey. ‘A lot of it is about delusion and the kind of psychological state that occurs in people when someone close to them disappears,’ she says. ‘A lot of the time, if no physical evidence is found, people refuse to believe that someone is dead. As far as they’re concerned, the missing person could return at any moment; we’ve seen a lot of this on the news in recent times.’

Her greatest hope for her audience is that they are surprised by the denouement: ‘It’s not a whodunit, but there are things about the characters you might not see until the end.’ (Steve Cramer)

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