Run Sister Run
Sheffield Theatres, Paines Plough and Soho Theatre
In the subdued opening scene of Chloe Moss’s Run Sister Run, we meet Connie who is anxiously waiting on a park bench, holding two melting ice cream cones, for someone who fails to turn up.
Subsequent scenes take as back in time and reveal the complexity of her relationships with husband Adrian, their son Jack and notably her estranged younger sister Ursula.
We first meet the family when Jack is 18, unemployed, financially dependent, a drug user who lacks confidence and is almost inarticulate. He is loathed and resented by the conventional and controlling Adrian who cannot conceal his disappointment in a son he had great hopes for and blames Connie for being overindulgent. To make matters worse, Jack’s girlfriend is pregnant and won’t consider an abortion.
Scenes from earlier in Jack’s life reveal him as a baby in a womb-like glass cage, a young child with imaginary friends, a boy who is bullied at school and an isolate who finds relationships difficult.
When Jack is 8, he meets his mother’s sister Ursula, who looks like a rough sleeper, has had terms of imprisonment for stealing or drug dealing, but establishes an immediate rapport with Jack based on love, understanding and acceptance and teaches him how to love himself by using a mantra “I love you, I love you, I love you” which it transpires she had learnt from the young Connie.
The play is rich in detail and all sorts of other secrets are revealed which provide insights into the characters and, by implication not polemic, a consideration of inherited tendencies in contrast to those provided or suppressed by nurture and life experience.
Love and the ability to love, to hold, to comfort and embrace is a rich theme running throughout the play, but there are also physically active, emotionally disturbing and dramatic scenes which are complex and compelling.
The actors and Charlotte Bennett’s direction do justice to the quality of the writing. As Connie, Lucy Ellison’s sensitive, thoughtful and quietly commanding performance is the glue that binds the whole together. Lucas Buttons gives a moving, believable performance as the damaged and conflicted Jack, while Silas Carson’s Adrian convincingly centres on the oblivious self-interest of the character and provides necessary friction.
In the demanding role of Ursula, Helena Lymbery finds a remarkable emotional range, from sullen resentment to humour and warmth, from furious anger to childish playfulness, from manic dancing to barely expressed determination. A tour de force!
The set (Rosy Elnile) is composed of a realistic square of park grass and abstract glass boxes in different shapes and sizes, which represent other spaces or are used to house props. The scene-changing convention is unusual and interesting and enables the action to flow without interruption. Lighting effects are simple and mood enhancing, slow fades drawing down symbolic darkness at significant moments.
Towards the end of the play, we return to the park and the ice cream, which now represents Connie’s bid for independence as a cinema usherette. More significantly, a final scene shows three generations of the family reconciled in love and hope for a better future.
Reviewer: Velda Harris