Dedicated to Adelaide
A Centre Stage Theatre Company review
by Debbie Stebens
Photo courtesy of Center Stage Theatre Company
Dediacted to Adelaide is an original play, written and directed by fourth year student Tammar Scotland. The show was staged by Centre Stage at the Aberdeen Arts Centre.
The play concerns Nancy Spencer, who we meet at the beginning of the story in 1983 as a seemingly put-together woman in her late 50s, portrayed by Emily Scott. She arrives back at her childhood home with the intention of selling it, but surprise awaits her on her arrival. She meets the new maid Elena, played by Eilidh Stuart, and is confronted with Mr Bell, a sullenly, bitter man played by Connor McCausland. Elena immediately notes the tension between Mr Bell and Miss Spencer and confronts the two about it separately. Once Nancy decides to open up to Elena, we get transported into 1945 and meet a young Nancy Spencer, played by Olivia McKay, her parents, portrayed by Heather Maxwell and Jaeden Reppert, and, of course, Adelaide, who is played by Louise Balaguer.
Adelaide is a new maid that Mrs Spencer has hired in hope of her befriending her daughter Nancy, who prefers the company of books to the company of the many young, accomplished men that Mr and Mrs Spencer try to set up with Nancy. To the parents’ dismay, Nancy not only befriends Adelaide, but falls in love with her. They keep their relationship a secret at first, but Mr Bell overhears their plans to elope and plots against their love with the reluctant help of the parents – together they decide to murder Adelaide to make sure that she will no longer ‘corrupt’ Nancy.
The director made the right decision in her choice of actors. The play flows effortlessly, the actors easily engage the audience’s attention and manage to keep spectators on their toes, waiting for the truth to be revealed. While there is certainly this aspect of intrigue in the play, it still feels like the action is too rushed at times. When elderly Nancy begins her retelling of the summer of ’45, we only hear her voice over the speakers while we see young Nancy play it out. The idea to juxtapose past and present in such a direct way is excellent and very helpful for the audience to be transported to the past; it feels as if we are Elena and we have the privilege of hearing Nancy’s account from her own mouth.
On the other hand, it’s a shame that Scotland doesn’t use that to let the audience know how much time passes between the different scenes and what happens during that time. Because of this, Nancy and Adelaide falling in love with each other seems a bit sudden and their relationship rushed. Due to this incongruence, it is harder to find authenticity in their love and willingness to risk everything for each other when it feels like they’ve known each other for only a couple of days.
The main theme that the play touches upon – homosexuality in the 40s – feels like it doesn't delve deep enough into the intricacies of the problems that such an identity would have entailed. Mrs Spencer fears her reputation will suffer if the neighbours find out, and Mr Spencer may not care about the fact that the person that loves his daughter is a woman, but he does care about what such a relationship will mean for Nancy’s future and her welfare, so both eventually decide to go ahead with Mr Bell’s vicious plan of killing Adelaide.
The sincerity of the love that the two young women share becomes much more clear during the scene of Adelaide’s murder, where the stage is split in two and we see Nancy being separated from the others; we can hear her desperately pleading to spare Adelaide’s life to her father who cannot hear her. The play ends with elderly Nancy committing suicide and reuniting in the afterlife with Adelaide and her parents, who seem to finally have accepted her for who she is. The audience was moved to tears by the time this very touching scene was shown.
It is evident that a lot of hard work has gone into the making of this play: the actors are well-chosen and play their roles beautifully. The stage – consisting of the dining room and Nancy’s bedroom at the house – the costumes and the musical accompaniment wonderfully set the mood and help distinguish between the 40s and 80s. In essence, this was a successful play.