Pleasance Courtyard (Forth), Edinburgh

Rowan (Cassie Bradley) is a geospatial engineer, working on the development of a driverless car. Nic (Hannah van der Westhuysen) is a freelance illustrator, who is struggling to forge a career in a notoriously difficult field. Autopilot chronicles the history of their relationship, from tentative beginnings to bittersweet conclusion. Playwright Ben Norris relates the two women’s history in a series of non-chronological episodes that cleverly entwine with each other.

This could so easily be baffling, but the story is expertly told, and it only takes a short while to connect with what’s happening. As the hidden truths about both characters are gradually revealed, so the story becomes ever more intriguing. Rowan and Nic, it becomes clear, are products of their respective upbringings, unable to shrug off the shackles that have claimed them since childhood – and each of them is concealing things from their partner for very different reasons.

I love the simplicity of the staging here, the two actors pacing restlessly around an empty stage with only light and sound to indicate the abrupt switches in time and place. Bradley and van der Westhuysen offer impressive performances, handling their roles with authority and somehow managing to convey the most intimate moments without ever physically touching. And I love the fact that ‘Alexa’ is somehow a third character in this story, ever present and presiding over the action as the tale unfolds.

Deceptively simple, but emotionally charged and ultimately compelling, Autopilot is well worth your attention.

4.5 stars

Philip Caveney


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