Katherine Soper’s Wish List follows two struggling siblings, trying to make the best of their lives after the death of their mother. Battling with financial desperation, a lack of government benefits, and a brother with severe OCD, Tamsin (Erin Doherty) starts a job in a factory. The work is exhausting, mundane, and meaningless, but it’s all she is qualified for after years of looking after her housebound brother, Dean (Joseph Quinn). The only positive of packing boxes all day is that her attentions are met by a kind-hearted coworker, Luke (Shaquille Ali-Yebuah), who makes her optimistic of a normal life.
This remarkable piece is both heartwarming and poignant. Spooner’s writing is effortlessly compelling, whilst delving deeply into social issues, and the devastation of mental health problems. The script feels continuously captivating. With funny, everyday dialogue, skillfully juxtaposing heart wrenching grittiness. The pace of the dialogue never wavers, and the audience is transformed willingly into the world of these beautifully nuanced characters.
Director Matthew Xia has created a piece in which there is constant action on stage. The audience enter a live space, and are not given a moment’s rest. The direction is dynamic and neat, but each movement, beat, or breath, captures the plays’ journey perfectly. The use of space is intelligent and brave, whilst distances between characters often tell their own story altogether.
Ana Inés Jabares Pita’s set design is neatly split into various settings, and is superbly slick in its functionality. The sophistication of the set is perhaps compromised a little, with certain elements having to double up in different locations. This often seemed unnecessary and avoidable, but did not blur the clarity of where the characters were supposed to be. The set changes were suitably frantic and ferocious, which mirrored the severity of Tamsin’s situation.
The fundamental triumph of this production is it’s cast. Each actor is hugely connected to the text, and all the characters appear devastatingly real. Doherty is superb as Tamsin, providing a scintillating portrayal of a day-to-day hero. Ali-Yebuah’s performance is pure and playful, whilst Aleksandar Mikic is necessarily measured as the strict boss. Quinn is stunningly heartbreaking, and he poignantly captures the everyday struggles of a harrowing affliction.
Overall, the piece is thought-provoking, intelligent, and thrilling. Soper’s writing is so full of vim and vigor that the production whizzes past incredibly quickly. As well as being an amazing piece of theatre, it also sheds some much-needed light on a less well-documented disease that millions are afflicted by.
The Wish List is playing at the Royal Court Theatre until 11 February. For tickets and information see here.
Photo by Jonathan Keenan