Yes, We're Related

Florence Lace-Evans
Purple Door Productions
Old Joint Stock Theatre

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Eleanor Griffiths and Florence Lace-Evans Credit: Patch Bell

Yes, We’re Related is a new play written by Florence Lace-Evans and performed by her with Eleanor Griffiths and Jack Huckin. In it, Lace-Evans plays Sara, sister to Saskia, with whom she has lost contact since the death of their mother a year ago. Sara has been living in their mother’s flat since her death and Saskia comes to the flat for a commemorative party.

It turns out Sara is not coping well. She has lost her job at Caffè Nero, she is sleeping in a child’s play tent and she has befriended a squirrel called Gerald which she believes was sent to her by the spirit of her dead mother. We don’t see Gerald but, unlike Elwood P Dowd’s six foot rabbit in the play Harvey, Gerald is presumably real and he is gnawing through the electrics of the house.

Sara forgot to invite any guests to the party, or order any food, so when Saskia arrives with her fiancé, Mark, she takes control. We soon discover that Saskia isn’t doing much better than her sister. She has split up with Mark and Mark isn’t coping well with that either.

Things come to a head when Saskia discovers Sara has been keeping their mother’s ashes in a Caffè Nero coffee cup. Home truths are shared; Sara never forgave Saskia for being at work while their mother was dying and Saskia hasn’t forgiven Sara for keeping her at arm’s length. They are finally able to express their grief and heal their fractured relationship.

The play is billed in the publicity as a "nutty new comedy", and the first half is played in a wacky, high energy, physical comedy style with silly props. When we first see Sara, she wakes up with a mouth full of nuts and she then shakes more nuts out of her sock. Saskia enters with a silver "1" helium balloon to mark the anniversary of their mother’s funeral and Mark has a toy bow and arrow to illustrate his new hobby of archery. He has also brought a trifle to the party, which Sara messily eats with her hand. All intended, presumably, to set up a riotous, ‘we’re all kerr-azy!’ comedic world before exposing the characters’ pain behind the zaniness.

It is a smart move to list your new play as a comedy in the fiercely competitive Edinburgh Fringe scene, and this Birmingham preview was well attended, but goofy acting and comedy writing are not the same thing and there are not a lot of laughs.

The play comes over as a heartfelt and sincere examination of grief, and it works well as a vehicle for the cast to give some entertaining performances, but this is Lace-Evans’s first play and it shows. The core of the play is the relationship between Sara and Saskia and it feels like a two-hander with Mark as a redundant, third wheel, dramatic device. Jack Huckin didn’t make it into the promotional photos and his name is misspelled on the flier, which adds to the sense that his character is an afterthought. The sisters’ relationships with him are underdeveloped and the playwright has to keep finding reasons to send him off so the sisters can talk. There is no mention of their father either, so if the play is about female relationships, then maybe Lace-Evans should have focussed on those.

The cast are likeable and energetic, Eliza Beth Stevens's direction has some playful and imaginative touches and the uncredited lighting and sound design are effective. At fifty minutes long, it will fit comfortably into a standard one hour Edinburgh Fringe venue slot and I'm sure it will find an audience, but it feels like a work in progress.

Reviewer: Andrew Cowie

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