Culture

Drowning review – earnest look at true-life tragedy rings false

How to account for the four Austrian nurses who murdered up to 200 patients in the 1980s? It is an act of such unfathomable cruelty, it seems futile to try. It would take an Ortonesque farce to come close to that kind of darkness, or at least a subtle analysis of the incremental nature of evil, such as CP Taylor’s Good. But that hasn’t put off playwright Jessica Ross from trying to make sense of it all.

Maybe, she postulates, one of the nurses was a battered wife; maybe one was a neglected single mother; maybe one had suffered a family tragedy; and maybe one was a lesbian (because, as we know, lesbians are always murdering people).

Well, yes, maybe they were all of those things, but as there are plenty of abused, neglected and traumatised women who haven’t killed 200 people, it hardly explains anything. If these were mercy killings, we’d need more information. “There’s more than one way to show mercy,” says one nurse at the end, as if there was some kind of moral ambiguity in which killing 200 people were OK. On this evidence, “No, there isn’t,” is the only answer.

Quick guide

Edinburgh festival 2019: the shows we recommend

Afternoon shows

#HonestAmy
Pleasance Dome, 12pm, until 26 August. Read the review.

Sea Sick
Canada Hub @ Kings Hall, 12.30pm, until 25 August

Algorithms
Pleasance Courtyard, 12.45pm, until 26 August

F Off
Underbelly Cowgate, 12.50pm, until 25 August. Read the review.

Fishbowl
Pleasance Courtyard, 1pm, until 26 August. Read the review

The Accident Did Not Take Place
Pleasance Courtyard, 1pm, until 26 August. Read the review

Vigil
Summerhall, 1pm, until 25 August.

Beach Body Ready
Pleasance Courtyard, 1.10pm, until 26 August. Read the review

Collapsible
Assembly Roxy, 1.20pm, until 25 August. Read the review

For All I Care
Summerhall, 1.30pm, until 25 August. Read the review

I’ll Take You to Mrs Cole!
Pleasance Courtyard 1.45pm until 26 August

Art Heist
Underbelly, 1.55pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Like Animals
Summerhall, 2.15pm, until 25 August

The Happiness Project
Army @ the Fringe, 2.20pm, until 25 August

Beat
Pleasance Dome, 2pm, until 26 August. Read the review

Spray
Assembly Roxy, 2.35pm, until 26 August

Ada Campe and the Psychic Duck
The Stand’s New Town theatre, 2.50pm, until 25 August

Anguis
Gilded Balloon Teviot, 3pm, until 26 August. Read the review

All of Me
Summerhall, 3.10pm, until 25 August. Read the review

George Fouracres
Pleasance Courtyard, 3.30pm, until 25 August. Read the review

If You’re Feeling Sinister
Gilded Balloon, 3.45pm, until 26 August. Read the review

Scottee
Assembly Roxy, 4.05pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Lola and Jo
Assembly George Square, 4.15pm, until 25 August

First Time
Summerhall, 4.15pm, until 25 August

The Incident Room
Pleasance Courtyard, 4.30pm, until 26 August. Read the review

Typical
Pleasance Courtyard, 4.30pm, until 25 August

Everything I Do
Summerhall, 4.30pm, until 25 August

The Last of the Pelican Daughters
Pleasance Courtyard, 4.40pm, until 25 August. Read the review

The Chosen
Dance Base, 5pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Daniel Kitson
Stand Comedy Club, 5pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Scream Phone
Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, 5pm, until 26 August

Four Woke Baes
Underbelly Cowgate, 5.05pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Parakeet
Roundabout @ Summerhall, 5.05pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Superstar
Underbelly Cowgate, 5.30pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Janine Harouni
Pleasance Courtyard, 5.45pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Daddy Drag
Summerhall, 5.45pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Snare
Pleasance Courtyard, 6pm, until 26 August. Read the review

Tom Parry – “Parryoke!”
Pleasance Courtyard, 6pm, until 26 August. Read the review

Evening shows

Who Cares
Summerhall, 6.20pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Tom Rosenthal
Pleasance Courtyard, 6.30pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Pops
Assembly Roxy, 6.35pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Toyko Rose
Underbelly, 6.55pm, until 25 August

Kai Samra
Pleasance Courtyard, 7pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Sophie Duker
Pleasance Courtyard, 7pm, until 24 August. Read the review

Jack Rooke
Assembly George Square Gardens, 7.30pm, until 24 August. Read the review

The Afflicted
Summerhall, 7.30pm, until 25 August

The Wild Unfeeling World
Pleasance Courtyard, 7.30pm, until 25 August

John Robins
Pleasance Courtyard, 7.30pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Zoë Coombs Marr
Monkey Barrel Comedy, 7.30pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Lucy McCormick
Pleasance Courtyard, 8pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Traumboy
Summerhall, 8.10pm, until 25 August. Read the review

London Hughes
Pleasance Courtyard, 8.15pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Huge Davies
Pleasance Courtyard, 8.15pm, until 25 August

Josie Long
Stand Comedy Club, 8.20pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Camille O’Sullivan Sings Cave
Pleasance Courtyard, 9.15pm, until 25 August

Simon Brodkin
Pleasance Courtyard, 9.30pm, until 24 August. Read the review

Musik
Assembly Rooms, 9.40pm, until 24 August. Read the review

Courtney Pauroso
Underbelly Cowgate, 9.40pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Jamie Loftus
Pleasance Courtyard, 10.45pm, until 26 August

Catherine Cohen
Pleasance Courtyard, 10.45pm, until 24 August. Read the review

Diane Chorley
Assembly, 11.00pm, until 25 August

Spank!
Underbelly Cowgate, 11.55pm, until 25 August

Thank you for your feedback.

The ethical argument aside, the dramatic novelty of killing people wears thin, so Ross falls back on what David Mamet calls the “death-of-my-kitten” speech, a retrospective soliloquy that delays the action before the denouement. Except she has lots of them. Directed at a soporific pace by Steven Roy, each of the four actors takes a turn running through the cliches of pill-popping/hard-drinking/bereaved women as they describe their domestic lives. But however earnestly they perform, this true story lacks the ring of truth.

At Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh, until 26 August

Read all our Edinburgh festival reviews

Show More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Close