The Gift

Leanna Benjamin
Graeae Theatre Company

Sharon D Clarke as Shirley and Saida Ahmed as Jasmine Credit: Graeae Theatre Company

It is Jasmine’s birthday and her mother Shirley has a special present for her: she has brought back her childhood teddy bear to its original splendour, but she can’t actually give it to her for they can’t meet up. Leanna Benjamin’s play takes the form of a Skype call between mother and daughter.

It's the third in Graeae’s second series of Crips Without Constraints being streamed on their YouTube channel presenting work written and directed by disabled artists and presented with both captions and audio description.

Shirley still feels responsible for her baby although she’s grown up. Jasmine now lives independently. Her daughter may use a wheelchair and need the assistance of carers but she knows her own mind.

If at first there is something slightly awkward about Sharon D Clarke’s Shirley that’s as it should be, for we soon discover that behind the cheerful bravado of her greeting she is aware that Saida Ahmed's rather edgy Jasmine has been through something traumatic.

Her daughter is a victim of the virus. She hasn’t caught it but the pressure of ill or isolating care staff has led to a man being sent instead of her usual female carer, despite the intimate assistance she needed. Now, waving a positive test, she tells her mum she’s pregnant.

Mother and daughter disagree on what’s to be done, both of them aware that Jasmine herself would never have been born if Shirley had agreed to a termination.

This is powerful writing that directly exploits the form of its presentation and director Cheryl Martin gets strong, sensitive performances from two fine actors. It’s only 15+ minutes long full of human feeling and well worth watching. From Thursday 4 February, you can also watch a follow-up discussion in BSL plus captions and voice-over.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton

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