By Milan Perera, Second Year English
Here is an audaciously inventive, raw, visceral and yet sensitive new play that deserves to be packed to the rafters with people of ages. Aké Kibona has created an extraordinary exploration of bereavement, grief, resentment, denial and stoical fortitude. Spotlight’s latest theatre production takes you on an emotional rollercoaster that guarantees to make you reflect on the theme of grief.
C.S. Lewis in his ‘A Grief Observed’ mused that ‘No one ever told me that grief was so much like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.’ The sentiments of bereavement and grief are as old as the humanity. There is no being who is immune to grief. Sooner or later it visits us like a thief at night, unannounced. Life is to be lived despite the challenges it throws at us.
As D.H Lawrence admonishes us in ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, ‘We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.’ So, it begs the question isn’t it worth mastering the art of dealing with grief and muster the strength to carry on?
The play begins to unfold when Mark (played by Adam Hashmi) returns home after work only to find out his wife Isabel (Lola Annesley) is in a grief-stricken state. The mood at home is solemn and lugubrious. When Mark enquires about Isobel’s change of demeanour, she launches into a scathing verbal attack, pointing out his absence when she was grieving the death of a friend. Puzzled and confused by this revelation, Mark quizzes as to why he has never heard of this friend before. It came to pass that it was in fact the best friend of her brother.
Mark is still unconvinced and retorts why should she concern herself with the death of someone who she has never seen for 10 long years, though tragic it may be. Then comes the seismic revelation: it was a memory that died. It was her childhood that died. The deceased 29 year old young man (Jacob) had been a huge part of the childhoods of Isabel and her brother.
The dialogue moves at a fast pace with further revelations along the way until it reaches an explosive crescendo. The on-screen chemistry between Hashmi and Annesley was spontaneous and uncontrived. It never felt as if they were marionettes at the hands of a director. Kibona provided the pair a canvas to paint the kaleidoscope of emotions with finesse. The pair stepped up to the challenge with aplomb and were able to capture the emotional intensity of the subject. During a post-show interview with Hasmi and Annesley, they mentioned that their own personal experiences of bereavement helped to channel the emotions with nuance, without harbouring onto kitsch.
Kibona’s bold and brilliant script is matched by the stellar performances of Hashmi and Annesley, which never failed to radiate heartfelt eloquence. Kibona’s material repletes with philosophical musing on the stages of grief. The project itself was a cathartic experience for Kibona as she was attempting to capture the process of grieving after losing a childhood friend.
Katie Rough, who was a cast member of the stellar production of ‘Company’, ably demonstrated that she is equally at home in producing a demanding show as this. Rough marshalled the forces with a clear guiding hand while ironing out the logistical issues along the way. James Tudor’s incidental music was well-conceived and executed. The original, expressionist, Glass-eque piano score heightened the drama unfolded on the stage. Lisa Inneh’s prop and costume design radiate with freshness and pathos providing a contemporary feel to the set.
A theatrical tour de force of timeless relevance which never fails to resonate with individual experiences.
Featured Image: Milan Perera | Epigram
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