“How far would you go to protect your family?” During the war, George (Edward Pinner) and Margaret (Christine Rose) decide to live in their bunker and attempt to lead a normal life. Everything seems fine until the oldest of their three children disappears. Suddenly questions arise and tensions intensify between the parents and their younger two children, Victoria (Jennie Eggleton) and Charles (Lewys Taylor).
The play begins by introducing the audience into the middle of the most standard day in the family’s life. The chores are divided among the family; Victoria cooks, Margaret fetches the water, Charles cycles to keep the electricity working and George gives out the orders. The theatre has obviously been adapted to suit the claustrophobic bunker as the audience are sat within the four grey walls of the shelter and are about a metre away from the actors.
It is quite difficult to describe this show as some of the themes are kept a mystery until the end, when the plot takes an unexpected dark turn. Romeo and Juliet plays a significant yet unlikely role in this play and as their ‘fate’ is revealed to the teenaged Victoria, so the family’s future is also exposed.
While little Charles cannot remember life before their descent into the bunkers, Victoria remembers everything. Now a teenager, Victoria deals with teenage angst, ever-changing hormones and trying to become an adult in a shut off community. She is a rather complex character, innocently trying to keep the peace between the parents while also carrying her own dark secrets, and both aspects are excellently performed by Eggleton. Charles is naïve and innocent and always agrees with his father – even when it is at the expense of the women in the family. Taylor really recognises the innocence of the young boy.
George is a very complicated man with secrets no father and husband wants to bear. He always puts up a patriarchal front and is even cruel at times; but Pinner manages to bring gentleness to the father figure regardless. Margaret tries to be the good cop against her husband’s bad cop act. She puts her children before everything else but doesn’t forget when she needs to be stern. Rose really shows the pain and stress the mother goes through as she watches her children grow up in the bunker.
The show ends but the story does not. The audience and the parents are perfectly aware of how the story will end but the children are blissfully ignorant to the changes in the world above them. The show sparks more questions than it answers. Despite its sudden twists and turns, it’s a show you’ll be discussing for days.
Only Forever plays The Hope Theatre until 26th September. For more information and tickets, see The Hope Theatre website.
Photo by Megan Burrows.