Edinburgh Festival: Safe (3 stars)

Sometimes it’s tough being an affluent New York teenager. No really, it is. Nina’s Mum is in rehab, while Liz’s gives her hash brownies to “make her eat.” The former is being looked after by her articulate but, until now, absentee father and the latter is pushing around her sister’s baby, while high on drugs. American playwright Penny Jackson’s award-winning exploration of neglect behind nicely painted doors captures the voices of the young, wealthy and troubled with both accuracy and warmth. Left to their own devices, the pair are without any real adult guidance. Nina develops a relationship with an older man she barely knows, while anorexic Liz attempts to destroy everything she comes in contact with, including herself.

With strong performances from Debbie Brand as Nina and, in particular, Carolyn Cutilo as Liz, along with polished support from the rest of the cast, the writing is compelling and scenes tightly structured. However, a shift into the realms of sexual violence feels like it has less to do with the characters than an opportunity to see the girls being thrown across the room in their bras and pants. An ensuing overdose on slimming pills feels melodramatic, but there’s a great deal of insight and intrigue elsewhere.

Written for The Scotsman

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