It’s just nature; it’s just biology; yet it affects so many lives – 1 in 3, in fact. Jeff (David Keogh) and Jasmine (Alice Merivale) are two such individuals. They sit together sharing a room, an appointment for chemotherapy and their emotions. Friendly nurse Sam (Emily-Jane Ashford) is on hand with a warm smile, a cup of tea and a shoulder to cry on. Dr Hall (Laura Ellis) pops in occasionally to break bad news in a stilted and impersonal manner. But ultimately it’s a story of the two sufferers coming to terms with their uncertain futures. Anthony Orme writes and directs a play that remembers the people behind the illness.
Taking place in the same room over a series of months, Keogh and Merivale experience the whole spectrum of reactions together. Anger, fear, laughter, hope – all are included as a reminder of what it means to be human. The medicine meant to help may itself be poison coursing through their bodies, but each cancer sufferer is on hand to inform the other that it isn’t productive to allow this treatment to warp their characters. The cancer is the enemy and it shouldn’t stop them from living whilst they can.
Whilst Orme’s writing is personal and realistic, it is also expected and a touch overbearing. The time lapse scene changes are effective at moving the story along; they demonstrate that the world keeps on turning and moving despite the disease seemingly putting life on hold. Once conversation flows between the two protagonists, it is equally natural and well-judged. Perivale in particular speaks with pace and clarity, preventing Keogh from pausing and feeling sorry for himself. She exudes a natural inquisitiveness and likeability that makes her the most relatable of the actors. As a 17-year old who has experienced multiple cancer setbacks, it isn’t difficult to feel empathy for her condition and be inspired by her positive outlook. Keogh should present a counterbalance, fearful and reserved; unfortunately, save one outburst at the end of the show, his character falls flat. Keogh doesn’t convey a man whose life is breaking apart around him; he needs to put more intensity into his character to match the bar that Perivale sets with her optimism and maturity.
With 1 In 3 affected, it is inevitable that death forms a part of this production. Orme’s message is a powerful – life is there to be lived, cancer is there to be fought and time is there to be well spent. Despairing over one’s current situation helps no-one and wallowing is simply a waste.
1 in 3 plays at Sweet Waterfront until 29 May as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival. For more information, see the Brighton Fringe website.