The Monstrous Heart at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Mag lives in a wood cabin in British Columbia, a seemingly quiet, middle-aged woman from Yorkshire who has moved far from anyone to escape her past.

She has started a new career as a taxidermist. On her kitchen table is a full grown grizzly bear (yes, really!) in the first stages of being stuffed – but, unlike the bear, Mag seems to have had the stuffing knocked out of her.

All hell is let loose, however, when her estranged daughter arrives unexpectedly, having just been released from prison and taken several flights to reach her mother.

Beth is as wild as the bear ever could have been. Edgy and feisty, a mouthy Glaswegian, she appears to be everything her mother isn’t.

Oliver Emanuel thought of just the right location when he set his dark, violent but witty drama in a lonely cabin in the middle of a storm (complete with lifelike bear!). It adds to the isolation and desolation of its two main characters, with the bear emphasising the wildness of the human characters. It would be a nightmare scenario indeed to find yourself in such a place with Charlene Boyd, in particular, as Beth. Her anger and menace is palpable; her face crazed – I was glad I wasn’t sitting close to the stage!

But though the energy onstage is electric, the story unfolds slowly, drip-feeding us so that we are on the edge of our seats waiting for whatever happens next, for which thanks should also go to the Traverse’s own associate director Gareth Nicholls whose recent productions include the sensational Ulster American and Crocodile Fever.

Though she starts out as a beige character, Mag is clearly one half of this dysfunctional family and Christine Entwhistle delivers all that writer and director throws at her. To say more might spoil the surprise – and there are plenty of them.

Once again, the Traverse, this time in collaboration with the Stephen Joseph Theatre, has produced another shocking, startling, riveting piece of theatre.

The Monstrous Heart is at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh until Nov 2
Box Office: 0131 228 1404
traverse.co.uk
Image: Mihaela Bodlovic