Theatre: Damned Rebel Bitches, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Neil Cooper, Three stars

GROWING old gracefully was never on the cards for Ella, the eighty-something heroine at the centre of this sprawl through the twentieth and twenty-first centuries from the Poorboy company in co-production with Mull Theatre. By the time she's caught up in the 1944 Clydebank Blitz with her sister Irene, Ella has already found her voice in the classroom through a fondness for swearwords. Almost seven decades on, the spirit is still within her when she goes in search of her errant grandson in the bars of New York just as Hurricane Sandy is about to breeze into town.

As it flashes back and forth between time-zones, introduced by each of the four cast members through a standing microphone, what emerges from Sandy Thomson's production of her own script is something akin to a female-powered state of the nation historical mini series. This is part love story, as Ella falls for older American soldier Pete. It is also a cross-generational commentary on the youth of today's flakiness in face of the wisdom and experience of a force of nature and gun-toting granny like Ella. Throw in Pete's wartime demons, Irene's pill-induced hallucinations and a late appearance of some sea-bound selkies, and Thomson's explosion of ideas is almost too big to be contained by theatre alone.

If this at times makes for an overly busy dramatic stew, the show's international quartet of performers drive it on with a restless energy that never lets up for its full two and a half hour duration. Tina Gray gives a particularly ferocious central turn as Ella in a show that forms part of the programme for this year's Luminate festival of creative ageing. By the end, the play's shenanigans resemble Thelma and Louise reinvented for an octogenarian set who will outlive us all.