SÉANCE ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON: Stephen Lowe.
Lakeside Arts Centre: Tkts 0115 846 7777 www.lakesidearts.org.uk.
Runs: 2h 10m: one interval: till 29th October.
Performance times: 8.00pm, matinees 2.00pm Sat 22nd and Weds 26th.
Signed Performance 20th Oct.
Audio Described Performance 19th 8.00pm with Touch Tour 7.15pm.
Review: Alan Geary: 18th October 2011.
Elusive meaning and thematically confusing, but ends positively.
No one could accuse Nottingham playwright Stephen Lowe of playing it safe or resting on his past successes. There’s hardly an area he hasn’t had a go at. Now, with this three-hander, again directed by Matt Aston, he turns his attention, in narrative terms at any rate, to religion.
Cecilia (Amelda Brown), a troubled widow with a past – failed teaching career, drugs, alcohol, illegitimate daughter, and so on – is in the south of France to engage in a “séance”. She wants somehow to find out if her late husband, a vicar who dropped dead – near the checkout at ASDA as it happens – loved her as a man usually loves a woman, or in the sense that Christians are enjoined to love everyone.
It’s an unlikely proposition.
In the event, with the aid of a mobile, she conjures up Jesus (Rupert Hill) and Mary Magdalene (Géhane Strehler) – reasonably enough; this is, after all, the area where legend/tradition has it that after a bogus resurrection Jesus and Mary lived as man and wife and had a family. The former in some sense also turns out to be Cecilia’s late husband Trevor (with a working-class accent), the latter also her daughter Esther.
The play is elusive in meaning and thematically confusing. But some elements are undeniably clear: performances are riveting; Lowe’s text is often complex and poetic; and set, lighting and sound are first class. We’re in an arid, rocky setting of bright sunlight where there’s an awful lot of weather about (thunder and the like).
Brown handles her dialogue, with especially at the start those fractured, unfinished sentences, brilliantly. She convinces us that here is a neurotic woman in the grip of many and conflicting emotions. Both Hill, looking, not inappropriately, as much like a young D H Lawrence as like Jesus, and Strehler, Semitic sounding and beautiful, are well cast and effective.
At the end you’re left in no doubt that something like the sought after reconciliation has occurred. Séance on a Sunday Afternoon is eventually very positive.
Cecilia: Amelda Brown.
Jesus: Rupert Hill.
Mary: Géhane Strehler.
Director: Matt Aston.
Designer: Lydia Denno.
Lighting Designer: Mark Pritchard.
Sound Designer: Drew Baumohl.