Any Given Day ****

Any Given Day is a bit of an enigma.  Like the jigsaw puzzles that two of its characters enjoy, the play is dependant more on the audience’s ability to put pieces together than it is on passive enjoyment.

Segmented into two parts, the production is an almost naturalistic look at the lives of two parties.  First we see Sadie and Bill, two people with learning difficulties who live in the same flat and completely rely on each other, and their predictable routines, for stability.  The second part follows Dave and his employee Jackie as they discuss life, relationships and the hard road to happiness.

The key to the production is not in enjoying the lives or philosophies of the characters but in seeing how their decisions greatly affect others.  Both parts take place at the same time, and actions that occur in one part have consequences in the other.

Kathryn Howden and Lewis Howden are marvels as Sadie and Bill.  Playing such characters can be a minefield, and they thankfully avoid all of the convenient clichés that most performers fall into while turning in performances that are rich in humanity.  Phil McKee is also quite strong in the role of Dave, persistently pushy for a conversation but always genuine.

However, the emotional crux falls to the character of Jackie, and here the production gets a powerhouse performance from Kate Dickie.  Her portrayal is filled with believable heartbreak and emotional scars, and though we root for her to take a chance on happiness, there is a foreboding that haunts her decisions.  Dickie plays her character brilliantly, resulting in a performance that lingers long after the production ends.

This too is heightened by Dominic Hill’s direction.  His pacing, staging and clever use of the Traverse 2 stage, along with an excellent design concept, allows for the action to feel immediate and convincing.  Its difficult making such a small space feel like a real living room and pub, but the production team completely pulls it off, resulting in a performance that feels real, taut and emotionally raw.

All of this stems from Linda McLean’s script.  McLean takes a few leaps of faith with her characters and plotting, and she is paid back with high dividends.  With dialogue that is snappy yet razor sharp, McLean’s characters sound completely convincing and act in ways that are believable, even inevitable.

The result is a production that might be difficult to watch at times but is still quite emotionally rewarding and intellectually challenging.

Written for Onstage Scotland.

Performing at the Traverse until June 19.

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