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In exactly five weeks we will mark the day that the first full UK lockdown began, a reminder that we will have had a whole year of predominantly online theatrical content. Even with the September easing of restrictions, much of the theatre industry found that it was closed again before it could even welcome its first audience.
With the virus and quarantine very much at the forefront of everyone’s minds, this has influenced a great deal of the creative output that we have been seeing – and it even helps us to buy into the fact that the action is taking place across a video conferencing platform. The writers behind Graeae’s Crips Without Constraints, however, are finding interesting ways to telling their virtually distanced stories in ways that are irrespective of the pandemic, creating content which feels less isolated in time.
Continuing to build upon their body of amusing yet hard hitting short plays, this week’s addition to the series is Stuck With You. Abi, locked away in the bathroom, is trying on a bridesmaid’s dress for her older sister Sarah’s wedding. Refusing to let Sarah into the bathroom with her, the women resolve to talk over Facetime whilst Sarah slumps against the bathroom door. Written by Jessica Lovett, and directed by Lilac Yosiphon, this play examines the intense relationship between these two sisters as they finally learn to communicate, discovering that don’t know each other as well as they should.
Like all of the plays in Graeae’s series, Stuck With You has been commissioned to give disabled people a louder voice within the industry. Unlike some of the other plays, it does not overtly highlight misconceptions and issues specifically surrounding people with disabilities. Instead, it focuses on the way that these characters deal with love, loss, disappointment, isolation and pressure, irrespective of their disabilities.
Lovett’s text is a detailed insight into a very believable sisterly relationship, built through naturally progressing dialogue which feels incredibly familiar to sibling arguments of my early adult life. As the pair clash, deriding one another, Lovett beautifully reveals the familial love buried beneath these two strong-willed women as they uncover old wounds and salvage their bond. There is an honesty in these words, they are relatable and speak to a deep human need for supportive relationships.
Bringing Abi and Jessica to life are the amiable Alexandra James and veteran screen actress Sharon Duncan-Brewster, respectively. Their contrasting portrayals help to highlight the dynamic between the sisters; Abi deflecting any meaningful conversation with jibes and jabs, whilst Sarah probes for a more honest discussion. Both actors approach the scene with a heightened energy which captures our attention immediately and drives the action forward in an intriguing manner – aiding in the build of tension, as well as buying them the opportunity to find moments of still reflection later in the scene. They seem to have a great understanding of the underlying heartbreak of the play and the way it has affected Abi and Jessica individually, and they bring this through in very heartfelt performances.
A beautifully formed and delivered play, Stuck With You feels like a homage to those we have had to spend our lives with over the last year. It reminds us to pay attention to what those around us are giving, and to what we give back in return. We may be stuck together, but this is fortunate, because togetherness is what will help us to survive the troubles that will always lie ahead and to move on from the ones that now lay behind.