It’s lovely to see the tiny Finborough back in business. Flying on the heels of the recent hit, Bacon, comes Polly Creed’s revival of Sue Glover’s 1988 play set on the remote island of St Kilda in the early 18th century where the virginal Edinburgh raised Isabel arrives to live with her new husband. There she gets to know Rachel, an unconventional woman who was kidnapped by her own husband and imprisoned. But Rachel is unrepentant and ready to teach Isabel a thing or two about men and the way they treat women. Amazingly this is the English premiere of a seminal Scottish play and there is a good chance that this will become the latest in a long tine of Finborough rediscoveries of overlooked plays which make us consider them afresh.
1735. Isabel, barely seventeen, is sent from Edinburgh and the life she has always known, to live with her new husband on Gaelic-speaking St Kilda, an island on the furthest edges of the Outer Hebrides, in the storm-tossed waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Struggling to adapt to island life, Isabel meets Rachel – a wild, seemingly mad woman, shunned by the local inhabitants. Over time, Isabel learns that Rachel is none other than the infamous Lady Grange, kidnapped by her husband following their bitter divorce and long imprisoned on the island. Lady Grange clings with tragic dignity to the two things she has left in the world – a consuming rage and an old straw chair. The Straw Chair is a modern Scottish classic, exploring liberty, marriage, madness and incarceration, and female empowerment, against the backdrop of the lost way of life of the Western Isles. First performed in 1988 at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, in a co-production between Focus Theatre and the Traverse, and revived on an extensive Scottish tour in 2015, The Straw Chair finally receives its English premiere at the Finborough Theatre.