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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!



Glottenbal Productions in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre presents
A Finborough Theatre Commission


The English Premiere of

I Didn’t Always Live Here


Alice Haig and Jenny Lee in I Didn't Always Live Here

(c) Richard Davenport 2013 Finborough Theatre

by Stewart Conn

Director – Lisa Blair

Designer – Alex Marker

Composer – Josh Sneesby


Finborough Theatre

26 March – 20 April


It’s Glasgow in 1973. On opposing sides of a thin wall in a run-down tenement two elderly women potter along in the present, without any discernible future and an endearing, determined reverence for the past. Martha (Jenny Lee) knits the hours away in the company of her pet budgie with occasional visits from lively community volunteer Ellen (Alice Haig). Their relationship is a tender one, but illuminates the opposition between the past and the future at the centre of the action. Amie (Eileen Nicholas) occupies a somewhat more grandiose space, and clings to a sense of painfully redundant and vague superiority. Fondness is roused for both women, however, and the comedy incorporated into two very sympathetic portraits is crucial to this.

The action slips around the place a little, making it difficult to follow at times but it doesn’t seem to matter very much in the sense that the substance of the play is found in the complete picture of loneliness rather than any individual moment. Around the middle of the play the characters step back in time and we meet Jack (Carl Prekopp) who Martha has already affectionately rendered. He is portrayed as an apparently straightforward man with a host of emotional problems brought on by an unfortunate series of external factors which are carefully portrayed. Jack was prevented from being the kind of husband he desperately wanted to be for Martha, though she pointedly refused to ever see him as anything but perfect.

The set is an intricate and busy one, and has been designed with notable attention to detail and considerable mind to writer Stewart Conn’s vision. The two living spaces are carefully, realistically devised and an attic space above looks as worn and precarious as it should do. Costumes have also been carefully chosen so as to reflect the financial situation of the two heroines. The fashion-forward mentality of much younger Ellen whose beehive hair and glamorous accessorising contrast with the functional, comfortable approach of her older counterparts is also well illustrated.

Local cleric MacWhurrie (Joshua Manning), with his serious tone and adaptable attitude depending on whether he visits Martha or Amie is another strong presence, and offers a valuable look at the world outside the tenement. It is apparently as economically insecure and hopeless as that within. The frank discussions between he and Martha are where the tragic comedy of the piece is most patently rendered, particularly on the subject of faith.

I Didn’t Always Live Here is delivered in such a way as illustrates why the Finborough have decided it’s time for an English Premiere of a play debuted in Glasgow in 1967. The inherent loneliness of the human condition transcends time and location, and receives very close attention and admirable consideration from everyone involved in this hearty and sincere production.



Lewis Rae.Eileen Nicholas.James Robinson in I Didn't Always Live Here

(c) Richard Davenport 2013 Finborough Theatre


Finborough Theatre
118 Finborough Road
London, SW10 9ED

Box Office: 0844 847 1652

Tickets £16, £12 concessions




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