4 out of 5 Stars
Impeccable choreography and a note-perfect performance from actress Joanna Tope help grip the audience throughout a 90-minute monologue in Douglas Maxwell’s new play.
Teacher Maggie Brodie (Tope) has seen and done it all, her 35 years in the classroom the only constant in a life full of learning about what it means to be a woman first and educator second.
Although effectively retired from the classroom, Maggie’s close proximity to a local school means that when a teacher goes off sick it’s her the headteacher decides to come running to for help, even if he is aware of a couple of “situations” from her past.
As Maggie settles into her new routine, she’s introduced to Rosie, a six-year-old Somalian girl who won’t speak but whom the older woman feels a connection to. As religion enters the classroom and Maggie reflects on how she arrived here, the past appears to catch up with her in more ways than one.
Set against the backdrop of her primary school classroom, slats in the back wall rotating at various points to depict a cloakroom or toilets, Promises, Promises is a play of many strands, all converging on the ageing, proud and stately figure of Miss Brodie, now slightly past her prime.
Religion, sexuality, nationality and innocence are some of the topics touched upon during the play’s single act, Tope slinking her away around her lair as she recalls incidents and people who shaped her.
Movement is important here, the actress interacting with numerous video effects which cleverly add another dimension to the story. It’s to Tope’s credit that she hits each mark while never making it obvious she’s having to work hard to keep one step ahead of her audience.
Humour is also an important element of the script, Tope delivering each line with relish and adding a touch of pathos to her memories of life as a small girl in Scotland. We may not be privvy to every twist and turn that has led Maggie to her present situation, one where the flask in her handbag is her lifeline, but there’s just enough behind her eyes to tell us what we need to know.
Although a more conclusive resolution to the story of Rosie would have been welcome, Promises, Promises is mesmerising from start to finish, both Tope and Maxwell deserving of an A for effort along with a few packed theatres for the rest of the tour.
Promises, Promises runs at the Tron Theatre until Saturday 6 February then tours until 25 March. Visit the Random Accomplice website for full details.