It’s the middle of the night and Murph has called her sister Jos for a chat. On her mind are the relative qualities of Julie Andrews and Emily Blunt, both cast as Mary Poppins 50 years apart. Where one brought purity, she argues, the other is complex. And that, in the dark, depressive early hours, seems quite wrong.
This schism between the perfect and the damaged is at the heart of Uther Dean’s two-hander about sisterhood and suicide. Gripped by the doll’s house that sits at the front of Jenny Booth’s set, Murph and Jos have grown up with an impossible ideal. Neither can live up to the childhood image of perfection, just as neither can get the measure of how much injury and inspiration they inflict on each other.
They sing pastiche show tunes (written by Dean and Oliver Devlin), but in the face of awkward reality, the Broadway romance fractures.
Dean has the sensitivity not to depict mental illness in terms of cause and effect. The self-loathing that besets Murph and the dissatisfaction that haunts Jos are not qualities that can be explained away. Nor can the love-hate bond between them be seen as anything but complicated.
It’s emotive, funny and distressing stuff, brilliantly handled by director Kolbrún Björt Sigfúsdóttir in a studio production played with the precision of a classical composition. Eilidh Loan, author of the recent Moorcroft, proves herself as formidable an actor as she is a playwright, synchronising her performance as Murph to that of Anna Russell-Martin’s Jos with vigour and grace.
Backed by Rob Jones’s video interiors, faded and scratched, they are tough and tender, vicious and vulnerable, complex to the last.
Me and My Sister Tell Each Other Everything is at the Tron, Glasgow, until 2 April.