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Theatre review

Cars and Boys

Cars and Boys

Dundee Rep

Neil Cooper

Life in a hospital ward can play tricks on you. Especially when you've had a stroke like ageing matriarch Catherine, the tough cookie at the heart of Stuart Paterson's new play, directed by Philip Howard in a temporary studio space that seats the audience on the theatre's main stage either side of the action.

Used to calling the shots running her own haulage firm, Catherine is now in a bed-ridden haze of medicated confusion, in which a steady stream of old loves seep from her dream-state with life-like clarity even as she can barely recall her grandson's name. Doctors and nurses treat her with a professional briskness as her husband Duncan and daughter Margaret attempt to salvage a few precious moments.

At the centre of this life in decline is a towering performance from Ann Louise Ross, who invests Catherine with a hard-headed steeliness that slips at crucial moments to reveal an emotional vulnerability, before she pulls herself together to deal with some everyday family strife.

Only Catherine's commentary on contemporary political ills feel shoe-horned in.

With the white lines of Lisa Sangster's set suggesting a life that has roared by without pausing to see the view, Howard's production captures a tone that is both impressionistic and defiant in Paterson's writing.

This is heightened even more by Greg Sinclair's live cello score. This fully comes into its own when at one point a slow and steady stream of people played by a community cast pass by, bearing gifts.

This suggests a funeral procession as much as visiting hour in an elegiac tapestry of a live lived to the max.

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