OK, we're well into stellar territory with this one. I refer first to the Stellar Quines company, whose work I invariably find intriguing and intelligent; second, to top-tier actor Maureen Beattie; and thirdly to the play itself. The List is from 2007, and dazzled then rather as this month's meteor shower dazzled now. Tremblay's confessional study has returned, as meteors do, with companion pieces: The Carousel (2011) and The Deliverance (2014), making up a trilogy entitled Mothers.
However, it's the wind that is howling on the near bare set; no shining promise of a new moon is in sight. Downstage left there's a dinky model house on an upturned log; centre stage, a utility table and chair; and bruised metal panels three metres high span the back. Location-wise the immediate clue is the stump. This is the countryside, not quite backwoods territory, but all drab fields and the occasional snow flurry. I saw (unfairly) rural Aberdeenshire, Lumphanan way, and it might just as well be - for the relocation from Quebec Province to north-east Scotland is chillingly effective.
The unnamed Woman (Beattie) hates it, to the point of hating her life. She is 'bitter fruit'. And there's the sharp, telling monologue right there. Once upon a happier time she lived in the city; now it's a very different story. She does have three children and arguably they keep her sane - or is it that they just keep her very busy?
She makes many lists to organise her day; the Woman is a walking, talking Post-it note of the horribly familiar. 'Things To Do' consume her, except on Wednesdays, but at least - unwillingly - she has been befriended. One of the so-called 'nosey bitches' in the village, Caroline, came unlooked for. She loves children, has four of them already, and keeps her laundry basket in the living room. Caroline's kids crayon their pictures straight onto the wall(s) but the Woman files her children's drawings into poly pockets. Laugh quietly, wince, wince again, is how it goes, until the lights fade and the Woman is left facing a single candle of remembrance.
Husbands? Partners? They are given irritated mention as tired commuters, painfully hearty at weekend get-togethers. That did not strike me as particularly inaccurate. Men are not missed.
I could say that The List is an austere piece, its hard truths unadorned - but that would be to cast Maureen Beattie's absorbing and sympathetic performance into the bleak, joyless corner. For a start, there are no corners in John Byrne's stark design, with its single enveloping projection of a tree canopy. Those metal panels at the back are unyielding; all the vulnerability is coming from a woman who does not know herself until it is too late, and that is a tragic condition.