Review: Enough at the Traverse

There was a time when a young woman could have no greater ambition than to be a flight attendant. It was her chance to fly high – though not, of course, to actually fly the plane. Opportunities have opened up for women, but the female flight attendant still has an iconic status, sexy yet servile, always immaculately presented with nails polished to pearls, all “high heels and higher standards.”

Stef Smith’s last play, Nora: A Doll’s House, seen at the Citizens in Glasgow and heading to London’s Young Vic next year, was a bold and radical variation on Ibsen. It showed that despite the slamming of that door, Nora is still with us, medicating the pain behind the façade of being the perfect wife and mother, still dreaming of escape. This might be its companion piece.

For twenty years Enough‘s Toni (Amanda Wright) and Jane (Louise Ludgate) have worked the aisles together and downed bottles of wine in hotel rooms the world over. They have an easy intimacy with each other, but even they don’t really talk about the reality of their lives when they are back home in the UK.

Jane is a wife and mother with a loving husband and an obsession with making her house look Homes and Gardens perfect. Toni is so seldom in her flat she requires a cat-sitter and is having a sexually intense affair with a shadowy man. They may escape to the skies, but can they really escape the expectations that weigh them down? Can they ever really tell the truth about their lives, and if they do will it bring everything crashing down? The script comes with a quote from Nan Goldin: “I think the wrong things are kept private.”

Like Caryl Churchill, Smith writes brilliantly about the anxiety that simmers behind the eyes, the sense of impending doom, the lurch in the stomach as the world seems to tip on its axis and go into free fall. Few write better than Smith about the internal world of women, the emotional hinterlands that we keep hidden, the lies, like splinters, that we tell ourselves.

Bryony Shanahan’s pitch-perfect production comes with a heightened, stylised edge and encourages Wright and Ludgate to play off each other with ping-pong precision. Alexandra Faye Braithwaite’s sound design brings a steady hum of disquiet as turbulence and subsidence met head on and these women must re-evaluate their friendship, find and hold their own ground.

Enough, Traverse, 27 Jul – 25 Aug (not 12), times vary

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