Review: And No More Shall We Part, Traverse Theatre

Theatre is distinctly a live experience, but it is also a communal event where we sit amongst fellow audience members and enjoy a performance collectively. Too often we forget that there is a relationship shared between spectators and the action that is unfolding in front of us. We share collectively this experience, and whether these experiences are conflicting or in agreement, the sense of liveness and connectivity with fellow audience members is at times palpable.

And No More Shall We Part, performing at the Traverse Theatre and written by Tom Holloway, reminds us that as we sit watching a performance our shared connection with fellow spectators is alive and real. As the play progressed, the ripples of emotions, sniffling of noses and silent roll of tears down cheeks were not shared with me alone. And No More Shall We Part leaves its audience, collectively, a heartbreaking and whimpering mess. Never have I cried so openly – unashamedly – than watching this beautiful production.

After a long battle with an unnamed illness, Pam (Dearbhla Molloy) has her course of treatment stopped. The only route left for her is the inevitable one. Not willing to submit to the slow decay of her body, Pam decides to take life into her hands. Her husband Don (Bill Paterson), whilst supportive as any husband can be, struggles with the conflicting emotions that arise from Pam’s decision. They can’t stop yet, they can’t give up, there must be another way. There isn’t.

Over the course of And No More Shall We Part Holloway explores this relationship, skipping between before and after the decision has been made. It is a gentle piece; there is no stage trickery, no gimmicks, just a text that touches upon the human instinct of survival against all odds. And this is where it triumphs – the simplicity of dialogue between two loved ones as they fight, struggle and eventually accept the decision makes for a harrowing production. So basic is Holloway’s play that it pierces through our defences and leaves us weeping uncontrollably.

There is much to be admired by Molloy’s and Paterson’s performances – where one is defiant the other grapples with the need to fight. Paterson in particular hits a certain cord, his deep toned voice cracking as he tries to reason, beg and eventually, with a single hand stretched towards the door, accepts the fate of his wife. And No More Shall We Part is not just about the slow demise of a body and choosing to take your own life; Holloway’s text explores the tightly wound bond between two people in their older years after a long marriage. They may have had affairs (“I had an affair once” “I know. I had one too”), but their closeness and their eventual separation is tenderly portrayed and suggested. Their attempts at remembering holidays or stories from their time together creates some much needed humour – Don forgetting most, Pam remembering every detail vividly. It’s this slowness, the silences and pauses between the dialogue as they recall memories, that oozes with a sense of understanding and longing between two people. Time hasn’t aged their connection, it has finely tuned it with precision.

You would struggle to find a more perfect production that explores the fragility of the human body and the complex emotion that comes with taking your life into your own hands. The piece is heartbreaking, it leaves its audience wanting to call their loved ones just to tell them “I love you”. Holloway’s play leaves all of the unsaid things within the subtlety of the lines, with the audience connecting them, and as we weep in the Traverse auditorium we are reminded how quickly life comes and goes. And No More Shall We Part is a harrowing, tender, and beautiful production. If you do go, make sure you take a friend and have tissues to hand – it will break you.

And No More Shall We Part is playing at the Traverse Theatre until 26 August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. For more information and tickets, see the Traverse Theatre website.

Originally published on A Younger Theatre.