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Reviews

★★★★
alledinburghtheatre.com

Two excellent performances drive Unseen, Ashley McLean’s two hander at Spotlites which deals with the ‘unseen’ nature of homelessness.

The situation and backstory of the central character Holly are filled in with economy and without sensationalism; her journey from having a flat and a job to living on the streets, largely through the 21st century miracle that is the zero-hours contract, is an appallingly believable one

This, however, is not the focus of the play, which revolves around the interaction between Holly, played by McLean herself, and Maria (Lara Fabiani), a former acquaintance who bumps into Holly on an Edinburgh street.

Both characters are three-dimensional and less predictable in their attitudes than might be expected. However, the script is far from perfect. The mixture of dialogue and monologue works well, and the combination of the workaday and the poetic is also fine. However, there are moments of stilted language that do not sound like anything anybody would ever say, and some passages seem to have wandered in from another play altogether.

The direction – by the performers in collaboration with Wendy Turner – is more than adequate, but tends towards the matter-of-fact. Too often a performer leaves the stage unnecessarily when it is always more than clear whether what is taking place is a conversation or a monologue.

That this is so obvious hints at the real strength of the piece, which lies in the quality of the acting.

McLean’s portrayal of Holly shows rare insight and integrity. It is believable, multi-faceted and frighteningly raw at times, with the flickering light of defiance almost extinguished by bitterness and fatalism. In particular, the performance is pitched just right for the intimate venue – involving the audience without overwhelming them, eliciting empathy without looking for pity or propagandising overtly.

As Maria, Fabiani is nearly as impressive. Her depiction of the character’s guilt, helplessness and righteous fury makes for another plausible portrayal.

Both characters avoid being one-dimensional or stereotypical; Holly is portrayed as someone whose life choices have never been as straightforward as many politicians or parts of the media would like to imagine – but she is never shown as innocent – while Maria’s self-obsession does not stop her being likeable.

There are so many right choices being made here. When it seems that a resolution of any kind will appear too pat and too forced, an ending is found that works well on its own terms. Any faults in the writing from such an inexperienced playwright can readily be excused in what could easily have come across as merely a consciousness-raising piece of agitprop, but becomes something more.

It certainly succeeds on a political and human level, and this is only enhanced by the artistry involved.

Reviewer: Hugh Simpson
Reviewed: 13th August 2016
★★★★



★★★
The Scotsman


The story of a young homeless woman in Edinburgh forms the spine of Ashley McLean’s sensitively observed play, Unseen. Holly (McLean) has a job as a hotel receptionist, but when her hours are cut, she can no longer afford her rent and, after running out of favours to call on, ends up on the streets. Here she meets Maria (Lara Fabiani), well-meaning and desperate to help. The two had met once before at a recruitment day, but is it possible to forge a friendship when their circumstances are so different? While the play needs more pace, more of a narrative arc, it is perceptive on the subject of homelessness: the slow downward spiral in which despair turns to acceptance, and the increasing weight of a person’s circumstances makes him or her less and less able to change; the longing to be seen, acknowledged, yet the pain which this brings, as the realities of life are brought into sharp contrast with others.

Reviewer: SUSAN MANSFIELD
Reviewed: 18th August 2016
★★★





Ashley McLean

Unseen

Unseen @spotlites @edfringe

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Thurs 4th - Sun 28th August 2016

7:35pm (50 mins)

From Scotland

Holly had a career and a normal life, but she got evicted from her flat and became homeless.

She has always felt alone and rejected; now she is unseen and trying to regain her old life.
An old acquaintance sees her on the street and does her best to help and support Holly who puts on a brave face, but inside she is in despair.

Is it better to be restless and strive, knowing her hopes might be dashed for a better life, or to resign herself and accept her circumstances.

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Tickets:
£7 (£5 Concession) (£20 family of 4)

Group discount: 10% off for groups of 10+
2for1 on Mon 8th & Tues 9th

Friends of Fringe: 2 for 1 anytime – only available from Fringe Box Office

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