by Clara Brennan.
Soho Theatre (Upstairs) 21 Dean Street W1D 3NE To 2 November 2014.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Sun 5pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Run 1hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7478 0100.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 25 October.
Mint condition new play and vibrant production.
Whether or not FoolsCap Theatre, formed by this show’s writer and actor with its producer Francesca Moody “to craft politically conscious new work with storytelling at its heart” develops into a new Paines Plough, producing a wide variety of playwrights, or remains a way for its founders to stage their own work – which is pretty much the furrow Plough followed in its early years – it will earn its existence if it maintains the standard of script and production in Spine.
Its own spine is the frequent dramatic device of two characters from widely different backgrounds, with opposed outlooks on life, coming to appreciate each other. Glenda lives alone in the old east London house where she’s collected a mass of books the library system was chucking-out.
This sight’s a wonder and incongruity in the life of teenage Amy, looking for somewhere to hide from her immediate problems. Glenda’s stories seem remote or risible, until a ghostly appearance – at a window or in Amy’s mind – draws her closer towards the past.
Clara Brennan’s script marks the two ages of character literally, as Amy describes a hint of incontinence in Glenda, and the blood from her own violent life. But FoolsCap’s political angle makes this more resonant than the usual comic-sentimental coupling of many ‘odd couple’ two-handers.
The younger woman’s surprised the older does not want to make money by renting a room. She’s looking for someone to continue the tradition of learning – learning as a popular means of understanding life, of providing a context for action and social progress. And Brennan skilfully makes the progress towards an initially unlikely succession seem logical.
She’s helped by Bethany Pitts’ alert, detailed production, alive to every detail, tracking Amy’s reactions – Glenda speaks at times through Amy – without making the progress towards the new direction in the younger woman seem too easily accepted.
From the moment she bounds into life amid the book-stacks of Alison Neighbour’s set, which makes its point economically, Rosie Wyatt takes us with Amy from the hectic familiarity of her crime-edged life to a new, sometimes difficult, but fascinating existence.
Amy: Rosie Wyatt.
Director: Bethany Pitts.
Designer: Alison Neighbour.
Lighting: Fridthjofur Thorsteinsson.
Sound/Music: Jon McLeod.
Assistant lighting: Robert Youngson.