Following critical success with The Me Plays, Andrew Maddock now brings The We Plays to Islington’s Hope Theatre.
Though two distinct plays separated by an interval, they are linked by common themes of love, loss, hidden pain & the resilience of the human spirit. Cyprus Sunsets follows a man on holiday after a particularly crushing breakup, hoping to witness one of Cyprus’ famous sunsets – in fact, he’s quite obsessed by the whole idea. As the story progresses we discover that all is not quite as it appears on the surface, and he is a man in crisis. The second play, Irn Pru, shows recently unemployed Pru trying to find a job in her native Glasgow – all the while taking entrepreneur Michelle Mone & hip hop group Salt-N-Pepa as her inspiration. Pru is also hiding a dark secret, and we see that she has an extra motive for trying so hard to survive.
They are, in essence, two extended monologues. It can be challenging to make almost an hour of the same person talking an interesting piece of theatre, but Maddock achieves this by creating a layered story in each case, as well as employing verse to tell each tale. The sense of rhythm to this pushes the story forward, but also lends itself to a conversational feel.
Tom Turner’s lighting design adds another level – especially in Cyprus Sunsets, where it is used to great effect to create the inside of a club, as well as mimic the natural light. An important facet, given the protagonist’s quest for the elusive “perfect sunset”. Minimal use of props in both allows the stories to progress with little distraction, but just enough help to understand what’s happening. A perfect example of this is the versatility of the suitcase in Cyprus Sunsets, being used to portray both a plane & taxi seat, as well as being opened up to act as his hotel bed. The only downside of this is that while he is sat down on the stage he is obscured to the second row by virtue of there being no raking at the Hope. Pru’s throne in Irn Pru, however, allows her to be seen by everyone and backs up the imperious character that she’s trying to display.
John Seaward stars in Cyprus Sunsets; with seemingly great ease he shows his character’s fun-loving side as well as the darkness that threatens to overwhelm him. The fact that he’s quite an imposing figure makes his character’s vulnerability all the more touching. Seaward shows a great awareness of the emotions his character is experiencing, portraying them sensitively & believably.
Jennifer O’Neill stars in Irn Pru, embodying her character from the get-go with her red hair & Scottish tones. It is a charismatic performance of a fiercely independent woman, as well as an hilarious one, courtesy of O’Neill’s terrific knack for comedy. She, too, is adept at letting her character’s vulnerability show, whilst retaining her pride.
My verdict? A pair of entertaining & endearing plays that expertly capture the strength of the human spirit, with standout solo performances.
The We Plays runs at the Hope Theatre until 15 October 2016. Tickets are available online and from the box office.