Review: Handfast

Nutshell Theatre
Summerhall – until August 26th
4 Stars (4 / 5)

Handfasting, is the Scottish symbolic act of a couple’s hands being tied together, often with cords or ribbons, representing their union. Handfast, the show, follows three couples on the lead up to one of their weddings. Things are going awry, and Mona (Joanna Holden) and Geoff (Stephen Doherty) get cold feet. At the same time, this story is not about a wedding, but about what comes after––when the happiness dissipates and the doubt creeps in.

Before the show, the cast gives out flowers for the guests to put in their hair, setting up the expectation that some audience interaction might be involved, but that expectation goes unfulfilled. Nonetheless, the quirky characters are absolutely lovable despite their flaws, and it is a pleasure to see a slice of their life unravel onstage. A scene between sisters Marina (Pauline Goldsmith) and Sarah (Mary Gapinski) starts of antagonistic, and a minute later they are both sharing a tight hug. Later, when Sarah screams at Mona about the canapes, it is clear that she is referring to something else altogether. The men are amusing as well, even though it is clear that the women drive the action. Yet, the actors can certainly afford more flexibility in their staging to engage the audience on either side of their thrust space.

All in all, Handfast is carried by a strong cast and delivers a mix of the poignant and sanguine in addressing what it means to commit. So mote it be.