When I was asked to review this, I agreed with, if I’m being honest, a bit of a heavy heart. Why? Well, I’m a bloke. A fella. A chap. And this to me sounded like the theatrical equivalent of a chick-flick – the sort of movie I have managed to avoid ever since being forced by an old girl-friend to sit through Waiting to Exhale, starring Whitney Houston, in the early ’90s.
Well, I was wrong – very, very wrong – to worry.
This piece by one of my favourite comic actresses, Amelia Bullmore, is so very well written that I feel that if I just read it, I would be enthralled. I would be laughing, crying and angrily rooting for the protagonists and I would be left satisfied by the ending – kind of. The play follows the lives of three University students (I’ll let you guess the names) through house-sharing and then onto their lives beyond academia. It has a lot of dialogue (including some sweary bits, necessary sweary bits) and starts with quite a few scene shifts in short succession. With this much dialogue to ingest, it needs pace and huge dollops of energy to keep the audience’s interest alive.
Rachael de Courcy Beamish makes her directorial debut and has clearly given the fullest attention to the needs of this play that I have described. She introduces a lovely device to keep the audience on its toes: having the players do the scene changes, in character. Good job. I look forward to seeing her next outing.
But any director needs a strong cast, and especially for a play totally focussing on the protagonists as this one does, three actresses with vitality, effervescence, energy and super-strong acting skills are needed. Bethany Harris (Rose), Beverley Beck (Di) and Roseanna Bowen (Viv) all give us an absolute masterclass in acting and performance. Each of them has so much palpable energy that the pace of the piece shoots along. The characters need to convey so much of their lives in the short time we have that, as well as animating the lines and giving them a true conversational sense, they must – and do –make the audience feel as if it is the first time these words have been spoken by the character. Hats off, too, for the facial expressions of all three. I was completely drawn into the story. I cared for and felt I was invested in the characters. This takes acting skill, strong direction and good writing.
All three parts are equal. There is no leading lady, no ‘treat of the night’, no ‘outstanding performance by…’. All three hold those accolades and will have to fight over the imaginary trophy. Having said that, one of the players has an ability to use her face and body attitude to such an extent that a transition between ‘super healthy, happy person’ and ‘really rather poorly person’ is made very quickly and very, very believably.
Outside of all that, top marks go to the set (minimalist but striking), lighting timing and Kerry Newton for stage management and props.
Future performances: 14-18 February at 7.45. I highly recommend you go and inhale the emotional beauty of this piece.