Jayzus. Talk about a dysfunctional family play with humor and heart. Maggie Kelly reviews The Last Of The Pelican Daughters at Pleasance Courtyard:

The Wardrobe Ensemble’s (associated with Complicité) The Last Of The Pelican Daughters has borrowed LIBERALLY from an in-yer-face Wes-Anderson aesthetic. Bright pink, veiny, almost womby walls outline an empty space with a lonely record player in the corner and copious amounts of cheap prosecco sloshing all over the stage.

Families getting drunk together after the death of the matriarch? It’s gonna get messy.

Pelican Daughters Pleasance Courtyard
The Wardrobe Ensemble

And boy oh boy does it just. At first, it’s just on the respectable side of bizarre. But when a skeleton is wheeled onstage and introduced with deadpan faces as Granny, it’s clear that the company has dragged its audience too far down the rabbit hole to back out now.

And it just keeps spiralling from there. There’s a lot of shouting, some highly regrettable swapping of bodily fluids, gorgeously slick red-dress-movement stuff and a surprise pregnancy all within a very eventful twenty minutes.

Don’t come to this hungover.

Pelican Daughters Pleasance Courtyard
Image courtesy of Murdo MacLeod

The Last Of The Pelican Daughters is very slick but has just the right amount of chaotic energy to keep the pace fizzing, along with the prosecco. The Wardrobe Ensemble have a tremendous skill in creating two-dimensional caricatures with so much heart that the audience forgets what stereotypes they are. Jess Meadows is wonderful as the robotic Storm, insisting on more money from her mother’s will to pay her for the last two years of caring duties. Sara Lessore carries the heart of the piece as millennial Maya, with Tom England affably bumbling as the perennially confused but ultimately rather sweet Husband Derren.

Other characters do get somewhat left out, with a suspicion that they’ve been created to suit the numbers of the company rather than the story being told. Helena Middleton is left with very little to do around the more scandalous narrative arcs of her sisters. James Newton has also pulled a rather short straw – he turns up and, well, stays around for a bit. He is told to be better and then has some cornflakes.

Pelican Daughters Pleasance Courtyard
Helena Middleton (image courtesy of Graeme Braidwood)

The Last Of The Pelican Daughters doesn’t know which narrative to focus on and yet, in no way does this undermine the pure gold at the heart of the show. It’s whimsy, but with an edge to it that every sibling will understand.

Yes, it’s about wills and legacies and left-wing-ness and fertility, but it’s mainly a show about love between opposite people.

And a particular kind of love,

a constantly annoyed love

but ugly-photos-are-permenantly-saved-and-lovingly-remembered kind of love,


but searching-in-that-crowded-shared-favourite-pub kind of love,

but sometimes-difficult-and-complicated-people-are-just-family-and-therefore perfect kind of love.

Pelican Daughters Pleasance Courtyard
Image courtesy of Graeme Braidwood

The Last Of The Pelican Daughters is fucking weird. And utterly adorable.


The Last Of The Pelican Daughters is now playing at Pleasance Courtyard until 25 August 2019. For more information or to buy tickets, please visit the festival website.