Having missed press night for new play ‘Staying Alive’ due to a pesky illness, I was glad to be out and about again and finally seeing this production. As winner of Blackshaw Theatre Showcase Award 2014, I am pleased to see the show is doing well a week into its first run.
‘Staying Alive’ is a heart-breaking portrayal of a grieving mother whose four year old son has tragically died. The mother in question, Mary, is surrounded by people who – despite good intentions and best efforts – are at a loss of how to act towards her and help her. What follows is a realistic depiction of what bereavement is really like and the normal process – or rather, complete lack of – that people go through when they lose someone who was their whole world. In particular, the play does well to highlight the fact that there is no one way to grieve, or a timeframe we can expect to see people ‘moving on’ by.
There were several scenes with a lot of explosive emotion, which were all the more powerful because of the intimate space the audience was in. Some of the acting was just slightly weak at times; although mostly I only felt this during the opening scene. But overall the play has a strong cast and Rachel Nott led the play brilliantly as Mary. I particularly enjoyed the dinner party scenes, which were lively and full of wit.
Lighting and sound designer, Andrew Crane, helped enhance the production well by using technical aspects to help us understand what Mary is going through better. In one lively dinner party scene, for example, the noise of the others onstage is drowned out by a cacophony of louder sounds; and the lighting dims on everything but Mary. This emphasises the fact that she is alone in the busy room and, more than that, not even really there at all.
There were a few scenes that I wasn’t convinced added much to the overall play – and one or two scenes that seemed to go without explanation. In particular, there was one scene in which Nathan, played by Brendan Jones, gets incredibly angry and almost violent. I loved how Brendan played his role for the most part, but following his outbursts I was waiting to hear more about what his character’s story was and why he was so uncontrollably angry. Unfortunately, we didn’t find out and I wasn’t sure what I was meant to take away from that part of the production.
Overall, it was a good night out. Of course, it was a little miserable at times – but luckily there was some hilarious black comedy thrown in to lighten the mood and a heart-warming ending which even left me feeling a little moved.
Reviewed by Rachel Callaghan @WIAAProductions