Stages

Wed 20th February 2013

reviews

Hannah Barber

at 10:08 on 21st Feb 2013

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Stages brutally and emotionally confronts the issues of death, depression and self harm, as three siblings – Danny, Megan and Joshy – try and come to terms with their mother’s suicide. The play was staged in the Heritage centre, a clever choice by director Rowan Williams-Fletcher, for the modern room with its plain interior and bare stone floor provides as little comfort to the characters as their failed efforts to console each other. The glass walls and ceiling create a performance space full of reflections, and this mirrors the play’s exploration of different sides to the self.

It was a cleverly constructed mix of dialogue and physical theatre, drawing on music, pictures and dance to expose the fractured emotions of the siblings and in many cases the interludes of pure acting were more convincing than the conversation itself. While one character spoke in interior monologue, the others would remain still and silent, frozen mid action, and this served to emphasise their isolation from one another more powerfully than anything else.

Megan (Kirsten Lees), the eldest sister, is trying to hold the family together whilst embarking upon a romantic relationship with Frankie (Ellen Milton), who she has met at therapy and believes to have lost someone too. One of the most tender moments of the play is when they lie in bed, and to the sound of soft music move slowly, with many pauses and hesitations, until they are left holding each other. It was a wonderful instance of hope amidst the pervasive grief. Danny (Rowan Williams-Fletcher), the younger sister, is consumed with anger, and through a frenzied muttered repetition of her feelings beautifully exposes how broken and out of control her mother’s death has left her. It is her fractious relationship with the seven-year old Joshy (Russell Park), who is too young to understand what is going on but poignantly dresses up in his mother’s clothes and jewellery in an effort to feel her presence, which catalyses the main event of the play, and after she shouts at him he runs away.

During a sexually charged moment of passion Megan discovers than Frankie has been self harming, and unable to cope with another person in her life having depression, throws her out of the house. It is she who finds Joshy and brings him home, and the anxiety both sisters felt at potentially having lost their brother bursts the tension that had built through out, uniting them in a touching scene where they play around to the uplifting sound of Florence and the Machine’s ‘Dog Days Are Over’. This is terribly yet brilliantly juxtaposed with the image of Frankie, left alone on the bed, sinking beneath the water that she claims threatens to drown her, and the play ends with Megan letting her leave without a word. For me Ellen Milton was the highlight and her final lonely exit from the stage left the audience speechless. Though at times the acting in Stages left something to be desired, the incredible physical theatre transformed it into something truly special.

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