Karen Sofia Johansson reviews the new student-written play, Thaw, at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Thaw follows the heart-warming story of the ageing Laura as she rediscovers the memories of her youth in a small Yorkshire town. Upon entering the venue, the audience was greeted by the sound of jazz music and the sight of a table, a gramophone player, stacks of books, and a single light in the corner, which set the scene in Laura’s retirement home. Against this simple set parallel stories were played out, of young Laura and her best friend, Evelyn. The set was stylised black and white, and the choice to have minimalistic staging worked well as it didn’t distract from the emotional yet funny exchanges of dialogue between the characters.

Louis Catliff’s witty script was brought to life by Eilidh Mackinnon, who embodied Laura’s northern, stubborn grumpiness with immense humour and timing. Mackinnon shined in her dialogues with George Lea’s Henry, and the quick exchanges of hilarity garnered constant laughter from the better part of the audience. The scenes of the elderly Laura speaking to her therapist, as well those with her frustrated son Henry, were hilarious.

Additionally, Hannah Ritchie and Charlotte Flatley both gave convincing performances; Ritchie as the young, level headed Laura, and Flatley as the impulsive yet compassionate Evelyn. With heaps of charm, they brought the characters’ intense teenage friendship to life. When they were drunkenly dancing to Django Reinhardt, one couldn’t help but giggle, and as Evelyn considered leaving Laura in their small town of Ingleton for her family in America, their frustration and heartbreak could be felt by every person in the room.

Louis Catliff’s direction seemed simple, weaving the scenes of the elder Laura into those of the young pair, but the lines were snappy, and the cast’s timing made evident the work that had been put into ensuring that tricky transitions and a dialogue-heavy script flowed so naturally. However, it was sometimes difficult to follow the plot and its interweaving narratives. Though this disconnection might have been intentional, as the play is seen through the eyes of the disoriented, older Laura, it was slightly unclear whether this was the case.

Regardless, Thaw was a gem of a play, filled to the brim with emotional weight and witty punchlines. When the light in the corner went dark, I left the theatre feeling both wonderfully happy and sad, a confusing bundle of emotion that defined the whole of the hilarious and heart-breaking Thaw.

Stars: ****

You can see Thaw in Edinburgh until this Saturday 25th, tickets available on the Fringe website.