Sarah Milton’s latest play Lucy Light deals with some serious stuff. It follows two teenage girls, Lucy (Emmy Rose) and Jess (Amy Clark) for a decade until their mid-twenties, as they face the cultural albatross of cancer in and around their lives. Despite the heavy subject matter, Milton’s play is a total hoot that uses dark humour and nostalgia to create something really special. Running for just a few days at the VAULT Festival, Lucy Light is partnered with gynaecological cancer charity The Eve Appeal.
The play starts in 2004, and you can tell – its opening scene is a throwback in itself. Lucy and Jess are pre-drinking cheap wine in a bedroom adorned with Knock On The Door furnishings, as they pull socks out their bras and perform a really quite impressive full-length lip-synced rendition of ‘The Tide is High.’ They’ve just finished their GCSEs and Lucy’s mum is ill with breast cancer – a fact that consumes the entire show and the characters’ lives. The music is key to this show and is done brilliantly. Characteristic songs from the across decade in question are played in the scene transitions to demonstrate the passage of time as well as reflecting on the play’s plot. The set is changed just as much, but in really subtle ways that allow one set design to transform from a nightclub to a bedroom to a hospital in a matter of seconds.
In just one hour, Lucy and Jess try to navigate huge issues, like bodily autonomy, the bizarre, gruesome and dark realities of having a foreboding cancer gene, as well as the anxieties that arise over routine smear tests, and the impact that all of this has on their professional, romantic, sexual and familial lives. Rose’s performance is remarkable from the beginning, while Clark’s character development is really quite impressive to watch as she surprises the audience again and again. At times, Lucy Light is a bit indulgent and melodramatic, which doesn’t mesh well with the rest of the show that strikes a good balance between hilarity and sincerity.
This moving production is as educational as it is funny, and offers a new perspective in the way it separates cancer from the cancer patient. Milton’s writing, combined with Lauren Dickson’s direction, allows this onerous subject matter to be lifted up and laughed at in a powerful play about dealing with everything life throws at you, “one tit at a time.”
Lucy Light is playing until 17 March. For more information and tickets, visit the VAULT Festival website.