I’ve seen the West End Donmar Warehouse versions, so it was great to support a friend and to experience a marvellous local theatre in Winchester (Chesil Theatre). Set inside a 12th century church building, you go through the arched door and literally are in the theatre! (which can be both a shock and a surprise!)
Beautifully and sensitively played by Katy Watkins and Steve Clark (on the night I saw it), I felt that the audience were unsure about whether the play was meant to be funny or not, so I laughed heartily to encourage jollity! Because it is a very funny play, although very sad on some of the time streams too. A mash up of Inception, Sliding Doors and more, a couple meet and in the course of the play we explore all their possibilities and potential.
Here the ‘right’ to life question (which the play seems to fail to explore in depth apart from ‘your life, your choice) is left hanging more — in many scenes Marianne (Katy Watkins) seems more uncertain, keeping emphasising that it is just a choice, not something she will or will not do; that most people given the option, don’t…. We also feel Roland’s (Steve Clark) pain more in one scene as the partner left behind, trying to support and encourage a terminally ill partner, and both partners struggling to work out what the right support looks like when one is going through life shaking circumstances.
I still feel that the play as a whole dodges the whole issue of suffering with dignity — it doesn’t even try to explore this beyond stereotypes turned into jokes. It doesn’t go anywhere near the ‘what if Marianne chose to continue courageously living a life despite the terminal diagnosis and seizures and word loss and huge change in life circumstances, could she still be of value even if she couldn’t do the space stuff in the same way any more?) — what would a more palliative and therapeutic approach look like here? The question ‘can you have a life with pain and suffering and deep change?’ is answered with a firm ‘no’ — a braver play would have flipped this question to examine the other side too. We never see this; only the indignity or in one case, the recovery. The actors left this question hanging a bit more, for the audience to answer.
This question dodging aside, the play is very amusing and thoughtful covering a wide range of scenarios and emotions in a relatively short time, and it always fun seeing your colleague play drunk or swear heartily on stage! And who can not like a bee keeper meets physicist ‘what if?’ drama.
Thoroughly enjoyed groupie-ing the stars afterwards and a mates tour of behind the scenes — dressing room, costumes (more costumes in the tower) and peeking up into the next floor in the roof (safely from the ground) to all the rigging above. Plus there are still ancient church features behind the bar and gravestones including one from 1827 set in the floor behind the scenes!