Enough, the aerial view of a mysterious dread, at Northern Light. A review

Kristin Johnston and Linda Grass in Enough, Northern Light Theatre. Photo by Ian Jackson, Epic Photography

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

“I am the image of escape,” says one of the two globe-trotting flight attendant characters in Enough, getting its Canadian premiere in the Northern Light Theatre season. There they are, trim and calm and smiling, 30,000 feet above their lives on the ground. “Glamour and grace … a symbol of sex appeal and sightseeing.”

To help support 12thnight.ca YEG theatre coverage, click here.

And yet breaking the bonds of earth is exactly what Toni (Kristin Johnston) and Jane (Linda Grass) cannot do in this strangely poetic, genuinely disturbing play by the Scottish playwright Stef Smith, a prize-winner at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe. It’s a captivating piece of theatre in the Trevor Schmidt production, unsettling in the way it captures, from the aerial view, the indefinable but palpable anxiety that it’s the end times … of something. 

But what? The ripple of knowledge that their lives, the ground below, perhaps the planet itself are crumbling and cracking five miles below them?  

As the playwright herself notes, being a flight attendant is is a kind of theatrical performance in itself, fake cordiality dancing brightly on the lethal knowledge that it takes exactly three minutes for an airliner to fall through the air from 30,000 feet to the ground. 

And at the outset, you’ll be amused to see Grass and Johnston, all lipsticked-up, tripping onto the stage in their high heels and  their nicely tight blue suits, pulling those perfectly neat little carry-ons. They pause to pose in silhouette to paste on a perfect smile for their public, as they carry on their own private conversation. They move and stop in sync (the witty work of choreographer Ainsley Hillyard), automatically adopting that angle thing models do with their hips. 

Linda Grass and Kristin Johnston in Enough, Northern Light Theatre. Photo by Ian Jackson, Epic Photography

They share a recurring chorus (and endless streams of chardonnay). “When I walk into a room, in my uniform,” says one. “There’s a look that gets thrown my way,” says the other.

It’s an incantation in a world designed with elegant aptness by director Schmidt. Roy Jackson’s lighting captures the strangeness of being in a bubble, everywhere and nowhere, and the quick flips between “onstage” at work and “backstage” at home and in indistinguishable hotel rooms. And Dave Clarke’s sound design, too, conjures that world of  air travel, with its anxieties, fake good cheer, phoney consolations.

The production’s theatrical accoutrements are fun and witty, full of allusions. The play has been called a tone poem, and I get that — the rhythms of its choral repetitions, the continuity between introspection (one character ‘narrating’ the thoughts of the other) and dialogue — and the imagery of a mysterious sort of dread. This sounds elusive and hard to follow, but it’s not. Both actors slide into this poetic complexity expertly, and their chemistry underpins the evening.  

Linda Grass and Kristin Johnston in Enough, Northern Light Theatre. Photo by Ian Jackson, Epic Photography.

Toni and Jane return from the sky temporarily, day after day, into the great cities of the world — which is to say its hotel rooms. Sometimes they get to go home. Ah, and what emerges, gradually, in a text that shares the narration and shifts  effortlessly between first and third person, is that their lives and their sense of home, and what it means to be there, are very different. 

Jane is married with kids, flailing herself, as we see in Grass’s performance, with the notion of perfectibility: the perfect family, the perfect house, the perfect colour for the bathroom. Toni is single, and as Johnston conveys expressively (there’s stress behind that breezy demeanour), the freedom of that single life is an illusion. She’s trapped in a relationship with an abusive boyfriend she’s ashamed to reveal to her friend (“his face is gasoline and I’m the match”).  

Linda Grass and Kristin Johnston in Enough, Northern Light Theatre. Photo by Ian Jackson, Epic Photography.

What’s infiltrating their consciousness from their aerial perch, as they fill the drinks trolley and demonstrate the use of the seatbelts, is an eerie thunder below them, the frisson of fear that the centre will not hold. They feel “the low rumble of something deep and dark, something working its way to the surface.” Is the ground cracking? they wonder. “Is the world disappearing?” Have offences to the environment finally turned the earth into sand?

It’s the unexplained link — I really liked that it’s unexplained — between the planet itself and the lives of women, gazed upon and never seen, that gives Enough its mysterious resonance. That, and the potential power of female friendship to be, as the title suggests, enough. Enough to withstand the gathering tremors and turbulence in a scary uncharted universe. 

It’s a weird and cool play. And Northern Light does it proud. 

Check out the 12thnight PREVIEW, an interview with director/designer Trevor Schmidt here.



Theatre: Northern Light

Written by: Stef Smith

Directed and designed by: Trevor Schmidt

Starring: Linda Grass, Kristin Johnston

Where: Studio Theatre, ATB Financial Arts Barn, 10330 84 Ave.

Running: to Feb. 4

Tickets: northernlighttheatre.com


This entry was posted in Reviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.