ChildMinder arrives at Traverse Theatre to shake minds and perceptions – enter this show at your own risk of being forced to investigate the darkest depths of your soul.

This is a ghost story, only it isn’t; it’s about love, but not exactly. Guilt, redemption, shame, and hope – all these emotions spin across continents and decades masterfully contained to a one-and-a-half-hour show under direction by Kolbrún Björt Sigfúsdóttir, produced by Michelle McKay with support from Creative Scotland and Traverse Theatre.

Credit: Jane Hobson

Without a doubt, ChildMinder is a brave story with the distinctive voice of Iain McClure, whose real-life experience as a child psychiatrist strongly echoes throughout the story of Joseph played almost disturbingly well by Cal MacAninch. In his role, MacAninch brews a perfect potion of equal emotions: at one moment a charming lover, in another he is a respected professor who can quickly turn into a frustrated, secretive, and defensive man.

This is how we’re introduced to Joseph’s story – diving straight into the uncomfortable memory from his past, the audience is immediately told of Joseph’s darkest secret as he’s confronted with a suppressed memory of it. This is an interestingly straightforward approach of stripping the character naked from the very beginning telling us there may be more to the story.

Enter Cindy, played by Mara Huf and with her, we enter a different world of 2016 Manhattan and fantasy scenarios about life in the 1700s. Huf and MacAninch do well at convincing us Joseph and Cindy are in love, but this may be the longest date ever, Ben Ewing humourous ‘pop-ups’ as a waiter, saves the scene, his immediate charm brings a very much-needed lightness to the moment.

The story continues its journey back and forth in time, showing us little bits and pieces, which Joseph would very much like to keep hidden – his encounter with Sam, a young patient he was assessing (a brilliant re-appearance by Ewing who’s unrecognisable as a troubled youth) until the culmination of the three characters that goes beyond time and place.

It’s almost hard to believe that we can travel across the years and places while the stage remains unchanged, save for a few movements of chairs and a table. Kenneth MacLeod created a set that uses all its capabilities and where nothing is left to chance. Actors can, quite literally, change their clothes on stage which also works as a projector and a restaurant.

Credit: Jane Hobson

The story ending approaches with an ominous circle and ironic twist of fate which caused laughter, even if this wasn’t an intention. This is often a conundrum. When watching something disturbing and potentially distressing, where is the line between obvious humour used to lighten up the audience (like Ewing explaining that it is a WAIT-er’s job to wait, though you had to be there) and an inappropriate reaction at a scene caused by someone’s life experience?

Whilst ChildMinder certainly does take on hard and deep emotions, it lacks the depths it’s trying so hard to portray. Scenes aren’t created equally and left me moving in my chair, waiting for a change while the meaningful and traumatic encounter seems to be cut short, as if not worth getting into. Overall, ChildMinder won’t leave anyone indifferent and will force a moment’s reflection, but the audience may find themselves back to minding their own business quite soon after.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

ChildMinder is on at Traverse Theatre until June 10th – info here!

The show is then on at Beacon Arts, Greenock 14th & 15th June and then The Byre, St Andrews 28th & 29th June

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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