It is always a huge pleasure to go along to the opening production in the AUB’s autumn term, since it is the first opportunity to see that year’s graduating students making their debut public appearances before they join the wider world of professional theatre. These productions are always of a high standard, but I have rarely seen such a uniformly superb cast as I did on this occasion.
The director’s note in the programme tells us that ‘The play shows a woman struggling to find her identity and purpose whilst striving against the feeling of being a “minor character” in her own life, a life that speeds by seemingly out of her control.’ In fact, Jemma Kennedy’s play is so much more than that, and provides a thought-provoking, surprisingly humorous 90 minutes of enjoyment, at least in this excellent production.
A wooden ‘back wall’ is made up of removable shapes in the manner of a small child’s early jigsaw, and these shapes become the various props: lamp standards, chairs, stools, flowers and so much more, with the only other piece of set being a large wheeled table, and it is all incredibly effective. The woman’s different ages are also shown effectively by someone on a balcony flipping over two wooden boards with large numbers on them, knocking them together to ensure everyone notices.
The story follows the life of ‘You’ from birth to death and re-birth, with the impression of her lack of control partly emphasised by the roller trainers she wears throughout, so whenever she is not being physically moved around by others she is literally careering around on wheels.
We were told as we entered the auditorium to ‘Please feel free to draw your own conclusions’. Perhaps because I have already lived more of my life than I have ahead of me, I was able to identify with the way we are often forced along paths not of our own choosing by pressure from others and the need to conform, so my conclusion was that the script hit the nail squarely on the head. As for the idea of re-birth – yes, that fits in with my thoughts too.
Sophie Huggins as ‘You’ characterises her role beautifully from wailing new-born through rebellious infant and thoughtful young woman to successful businesswoman and old lady, and at every moment I totally believed in her. The rest of the nine-strong all-female cast play her friends, relatives, colleagues and associates at ages from childhood upwards, giving each the opportunity to display their versatility. This they do with excellent results, and, as if that wasn’t enough, they also sing and play ukuleles with obvious skill.
Several scenes are really sticking in my mind, one in particular being when ‘You’ is in an hotel with her boyfriend, who is more concerned with writing a review of their experience on TripAdvisor than taking notice of her. I also squirmed uncomfortably as ‘You’ tried to justify her newly written book to a hostile audience intent on disproving her work, but laughed out loud at the small children posing for the camera and telling of their hopes for the future.
I very much look forward to seeing all of these fine actors in future productions, but if you would like to see their work this week, there are performances on Friday and Saturday at 3 pm and 7.30 pm.