Review: Best Girl, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Lois Mackie in Best Girl, at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Lois Mackie in Best Girl, at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Keeping it in the family sums up both the production, and the inherent warning, in this powerful play.

It’s the first work that Lancaster actress Christine Mackie has ever written; it’s part autobiographical – based on her own father’s suicide; and it’s performed by her daughter Lois .

Best Girl is a love story set at the intersection of two domestic dramas. When Annie falls for Jim she also unearths a secret, literally from the attic, that leads her to confront her own family’s demons. To encapsulate all that in a one-woman, one-hour monologue is testament to fine writing and acting, but also some delicate and detailed direction, by Kayleigh Hawkins.

With just a park bench, trumpet case and a bunch of flowers for props Lois Mackie is quite riveting as a young woman both desperately in love, and grief.

The focus of the latter has been switched from an actual tragedy that followed the Second World War to a fictional one in the wake of the Gulf War.

It allows for a contemporary setting, in modern-day Manchester, but underscores the timeless incapacity of society, or individuals, to confront the aftermath of conflict. Mackie Junior delivers it in an unflinching portrayal of the young woman’s journey towards therapy.

Laughter, and tears, easily intermingle here. In the near-claustrophobic confines of this tiny cellar venue, at Edinburgh’s festival fringe, it packs a formidable punch – even among a programme that this year boasts an astonishing 3,800 events! The play has already caught the eye of an awards panel in the Scottish capital, besides the reviewers who saw its premiere at the Manchester fringe festival last month. It runs in Edinburgh until August 26, but after that it would be a serious oversight if someone did not stage its appearance on the Mackie family’s home turf.

By David Upton