Miss Brown to You
Hijinx Theatre Company
The Riverfront, Newport, and touring
Gaynor Lougher directs Alan Harris' captivating new play, Miss Brown to You, written for the inimitable Hijinx Theatre Company.
Harris sets his story in a small village in rural mid-Wales during the Second World War. Emily Brown, the young woman he puts at the heart of the story is, "someone who is different, underestimated even, but who has an inner strength, a steely defiance in the face of great odds". Emily has Down syndrome, and is evacuated from London to the safety of her Aunt's home in a small mid-Wales village.
Harris, formerly of Wales' acclaimed Sgript Cymru, says, "A lot of the stuff that I write is about people who don't fit in - or are continually searching for something in their lives. What I did not want to write is a play about someone with a disability. We've all got something about us that doesn't function 'normally', only some of us have the privilege of hiding it better than others."
Playing the part of Emily is Sara Pickard, a young actor with Down syndrome making her professional debut. Pickard does everything Harris envisaged for the role and more: she gives Emily a grace and a poise which lights up the stage, and she oozes the "inner strength" and "steely defiance" Harris was searching for. Harris has woven a gem of a story around Emily and Sara Pickard's performance makes it shine. In the opening scenes, as Emily sits alone on a rainy station platform, a single act of kindness gives us the glimmer of hope for her future. From the lonely isolation of her first entrance, little by little we see Emily growing in stature, until she becomes the pivotal figure in the family and the heroine of the story.
Lougher directs this cast of five with a light touch in a moving account of Emily's struggle to carve out a life for herself in the face of loneliness and prejudice. Joshua McCord provides strong support as David, Emily's cousin, as does Daniel Wallace as Stanley, the outcast Conscientious Objector with whom Emily begins a friendship.
Harris' script and Lougher's direction combine to ensure that Miss Brown to You is a wholly captivating couple of hours. This is everything we've come to expect from Hijinx: great story-telling, an exemplary, inclusive cast and a production that stays with you.
Tours to Ledbury, Brecon, Milton Keynes, Pwllheli, Carmarthen, CTC Mold, Pontypridd, Milford Haven, Ystradgynlais, Cardiff WMC, until April 4th, 2009
Reviewer: Allison Vale