King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
Ghosts are everywhere in Sally Abbott’s new play, brought to life by co-directors Kathy Burke and Scott Graham in Frantic Assembly’s twenty-fifth anniversary touring production.
Not that anyone is talking to each other about it, preferring to offload their woes to the audience as one might to a diary, a blog or to the entire world by way of social media. Anything, then, but talking face to face, be it estranged sisters Ange and Clare, under-achieving mum Josie and her high-flying son Manny, or taxi driver Graham and his wife Bex.
Each is kept apart by designer Morgan Large’s choreographed array of people-sized movable walls that are burled around by the cast between scenes, the frosted glass on each making any connection even harder. As lives intersect despite themselves, an accidental community of sorts is revealed that exposes an inherent good in people.
Frantic Assembly may have come of age, but they’re still dealing with the same themes of fragmented lives and dysfunctional relationships they built their reputation on back in the techno-soundtracked 1990s. As co-produced with Theatre Royal Plymouth and Curve, with three separate plots criss-crossing each other, Abbot’s play has the feel of an entire mini-series condensed into a couple of hours.
A tenderness permeates throughout Abbott’s script, and when people actually do start talking to each other – and listening – in the second half, the various causes of the collective anxiety on show become clear. As Ange and Clare, Charlotte Bate and Polly Frame lay bare the roots of the siblings’ self-destructive narcissism. Much more affecting, Chizzy Akudolu and Caleb Roberts find their own road to reunification as Josie and Manny while Andrew Turner’s Graham and Simone Saunders’ Bex offer a more emotional form of salvation.
For all the busyness of the production, Abbot has created an of-the-moment drama about loss, grief, healing and the power of everyday kindness that suggests talking things out is a whole lot healthier than suffering in silence.
The Herald, February 19th 2020