Sometimes I Laugh Like My Sister
Rebecca Peyton and Martin M. Bartelt
Finborough Theatre, London
With Sometimes I Laugh Like My Sister, Rebecca Peyton has done something quite remarkable. She’s created an event that is at once universally resonant and undeniably personal.
“I don’t remember when exactly,” she explains in the programme notes, “but it was within days of Kate’s death that I knew I wanted to make some kind of show out of my experiences.”
The Kate in question is BBC journalist Kate Peyton, who was murdered in 2005 while on an assignment in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. In this touching, brave and surprisingly funny production, her younger sister Rebecca allows us into the tender folds of her experience to tell the story of life after Kate.
While the broader concept for a show came quickly, the production went through much fine-tuning—on a rocky road that saw Peyton eventually team up with Michael M. Bartelt, who helped organise her grief into a coherent structure—before the end product (versions of which have been performed in Switzerland, Edinburgh and London) emerged.
The resulting monologue begins a year or so after Kate’s death and splices together memories, experiences and general musings about everything from the moment she first heard of the shooting to flying first class on an aeroplane and an alcohol-fuelled night on the tiles. This isn’t solely about death, but about the ripples the death of a loved one makes in every aspect of life. Some, it turns out, are rather amusing.
Peyton’s natural flair for the comedic works well in what could otherwise have been a somewhat heavy experience. This is the woman who at one point considered naming the show 101 Uses For A Murdered Sister; a vibrant and enduring personality that brings a sharp, often cutting edge to her story.
Mostly observational humour is thrown in to lighten the load, a quick laugh to settle unsteady waters. Other times sarcasm creeps in to reveal a political agenda, as Peyton recounts her experiences with the BBC and even the government.
Comedy acts as a catalyst to what is a genuinely moving performance, though. There are a handful of moments that really deliver an emotional punch—such as the devastating guttural noise that resonates from Peyton when she re-enacts the news of her sister’s death—and it’s these the audience will surely take away.
The stark staging allows for a close, casual relationship with Peyton, as though she’s just wandered into the room and decided to share her story. Equally it evokes an atmosphere of emptiness (possibly that left by Kate’s absence) into which Peyton can randomly throw these snippets of experience.
As the title suggests, it’s the ‘little things’—laughing like one’s sister—that are suddenly spiked with emotion after the death of someone dear. One by one, Peyton plucks these thoughts, seemingly out of thin air, and shares them in such a generous and unguarded manner it’s easy to loose yourself in what is an extraordinary—yet delightfully ordinary—story of loss and struggle, but ultimately love.
Reviewer: Kat Halstead