The association of a play about three children aged 16, 14 and 7 with a university production is not natural. Indeed, before stepping into Mardon Hall where the show was performed, I was very wary as to how directors Alice Wordsworth and Alice Palmer were going to handle this bridge they had to cross. By the time I left, I was more than reassured that the way that they had taken the play and the actors, was brilliant and had me fooled as much as the rest of the audience.
The play focuses around three children, Elliot played by Alex Mcgrigor, Maggie played by Flora Ashton and Finn played by Fred Varley, as they are left alone by their mother for over a week.
Refusing to let themselves be split up by social services, the three children fight to survive on their own without raising any suspicion. More of a dark comedy than anything else, the play swings from one extreme to another and whilst it was not the most action-packed of plays, the raw humanity and relationships at its heart drove this moving piece along with ease.
Mcgrigor and Ashton excelled in their roles as the two older siblings. Whilst it took a while to warm up to Maggie and Elliot, the actors’ natural chemistry onstage creates for a warm atmosphere that lulled the audience into some sense of false security that sets the scene for the first part of the play. Varley has to be credited though for his almost disturbingly accurate depiction of a seven year old, bringing an infectious energy to the play. The trio of lead actors are compelling and as you take a careful look at the characters, it is clear that there is something not quite right with any of them.
the raw humanity and relationships at its heart drove this moving piece along with ease
The supporting actors make their appearances memorable in their own ways and give some light relief or, in the case of the final scene, provide the climax of the play where everything falls into its disjointed place. Daniel Heathcote and Josie Farmer have to be given credit as the couple that finally try to make their mark on the children’s lives only to be rebuked amidst their own drama.
The play overall superbly executes a heightened reality that those in the audience may well be unfamiliar with, familiar character tropes in an unfamiliar setting and plot arc. The directors, Alice Wordsworth and Alice Palmer, excel in their ability to unsettle the audience whilst prising laughs out of them at the same time, making the show a compelling and heart-breaking watch.