SIX scarlet-clad women line up in coffin-size boxes like life-size historical dolls being flogged off at some old-time sideshow.

As a shabby ringmaster parades them before the audience, he opens the door on a complex, criss-crossing trawl through epochal moments of times past, as umpteen versions of the same woman split in two at moments of crisis. The result, in this Scots/Quebecois collaboration between the Edinburgh-based Stellar Quines company and Montreal's Imago Theatre, is a beguiling magical-realist epic that stretches an extended umbilical cord through history.

Joan of Arc, Medea, St Therese, the French revolution, Charles Darwin, Jack the Ripper and Sigmund Freud are all in Clare Duffy and Pierre Yves Lemieux's bi-lingual script, mixed and matched into life in Serge Denoncourt's audacious and vivacious production. Matters of life, death, art, science and religion are similarly entwined in a whirlwind of time-lagging inter-connectivity that hinges on the basic right of liberty through choice. If one Ana's creative potential is strangled at birth, another flourishes materially, if not emotionally. For a while, anyway.

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With a mixed cast of Scots and Quebecois actors split evenly across the two nations, there may be different stylistic sensibilities at play, but, from Frances Thorburn's infant squeals to Catherine Begin's brutal death, there's a prevailing intensity that rips into what exactly the rights of Woman are. In some respects, all this is getting back to some of the more intellectually and theatrically expansive examples of Scottish drama that came out of the 1980s, before naturalism took hold in some quarters. If we've come full circle and are tapping into a sense of post-modern internationalism, this is a thrilling start.

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