One Under

Winsome Pinnock
Graeae Theatre Company
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich
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Graeae is part of the Ramps on the Moon project, which aims to integrate able-bodied and disabled actors and make productions more fully accessible, and has in the past tackled big cast and classic productions like Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera, Gogol’s The Government Inspector and Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good.

One Under is on a much smaller scale, and Pinnock’s play, originally written in 2005 but updated recently for this tour, although dealing with a distressing subject, is in some ways sketchily written and needs a lot of input from both the actors and the director to make it work. Unfortunately, there were added problems on the night with technical issues resulting in the soundscape, an integral part of this production, not being available.

However, the company decided to perform anyway—with captioned descriptions of sound effects as well as the words of the script being displayed above the stage.

The plot follows train driver Cyrus (Stanley J Browne) and his quest for the truth after his life is turned upside down by a stranger’s suicide. The play tells the story in scenes that alternate between flashback and the present as Cyrus follows Sonny’s (Reece Pantry) trail and tries to find meaning in the tragedy of this disturbed young man.

Along the way, he meets Sonny’s adoptive and pragmatic mother Nella (Shenagh Goven), his embittered sister Zoe (Evlyne Oyedokun) and Christine (Clare Louise English), a woman with whom Sonny had a one night stand, on the night before he threw himself in front of the train.

All the actors are very sincere in their portrayals as the story emerges of mental health issues, transferred guilt and broken relationships. But without the soundscape, which would probably have moved the pace along and given some different levels, this production did drag its heels a little.

Having said that, it raises a lot of interesting and thought provoking issues and is a worthy attempt from director Amit Sharma to bring some clarity to this rather tricksy physiological drama.

Reviewer: Suzanne Hawkes