Following a working class Midlands family on a wedding day, Beth Steel’s tragic yet hilarious new play touches on the strains of love, heartache, xenophobia, lies and far, far too much alcohol.
Till the Stars Come Down focuses on the relationship between three sisters – excited bride Sylvia (Sinéad Matthews), mouthy but confident Maggie (Lisa McGrillis), and unhappily married Hazel (Lucy Black). They’re all grieving for their mother, but overall a sense of family is palpable.
The family tensions, however, are easily perceptible from the off – Hazel’s sly digs at Sylvia’s husband-to-be, Marek’s Polish background, as well as to sister Maggie, and her four marriages – “but only to three husbands” – leaving the atmosphere somewhat on edge. The wedding day is – surprisingly – not overpowered by the ‘happy’ couple, more so by Aunt Carol, played by Lorraine Ashbourne, whose comic timing was nothing short of perfection. Ashbourne brought the light-hearted take that was so desperately needed at points, and had the audience in the palm of her hand from the moment she made her grand entrance.
As seen in Steel’s past works, recent British histor is never far from her thoughts, this time with the miners’ strikes and how it affected not only communities, but also relationships. Father-of-the-bride, Tony (Alan Williams), and estranged brother Pete (Philip Whitchurch) haven’t spoken for over 40 years, and, through the direction of Bijan Sheibani, tensions
reach boiling point towards the climax of the fateful wedding night.
The reality that was brought into the play truly adds to the feeling that the audience is a part of the wedding. And yes, that includes watching the wedding party devour a delicious looking roast dinner.
Movement Director Aline David’s work shone bright throughout, but never more so than when the bride’s dad, Tony, utilises the wedding guests to show the correlation between the sun, moon and earth. Rarely has a scene moonlighting as a science project been more coated in unwanted love, pain, and confusion.
From the excitement of the hot summer’s wedding day, to the heartbreak, hatred and anger that ensues, coupling Steel’s powerful writing with Sheibani’s experienced directing, Till the Stars Come Down truly is a resounding success. Don’t miss this modern story, steeped in family history.
Reviewed by Luisa Gottardo