Sitting with Thistle** (Lion and Unicorn Theatre, 3 October 2013)

Posted: October 5, 2013 in Theatre

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com

A remote Welsh cottage made inaccessible by the worst snowstorm in decades and, inside, a dead body. No, this is not an Agatha Christie whodunnit, rather it is a curious little play that edges between black comedy, family drama and suspense thriller. The body is that of Granny, who, having called a family reunion, rather thoughtlessly goes to meet her maker after only two family members, sibling grandchildren, have arrived. Left alone with little food, faltering water and electricity supplies, no mobile phone signal and no wifi, the pair settle in for a night of opening up the wounds from past traumas, whilst Granny lies rolled up in a carpet on the floor. This is rather a neat opening premise for a black comedy and the setting is nicely realised in Jenny Davies’ design; cluttered with old fashioned crockery, bric-a-brac, sheep skulls and quail egg shells, this is just where an eccentric old lady could have lived and died However, for the first 40 minutes of this 70 minute play, there is nothing black and very little comedic as the siblings simply bicker childishly over trivia; they each complain of being driven mad by the other, but, in fact, it is us being driven mad by both of them. In the later stages, events take a sinister turn and become more interesting and suspenseful, but there is still little real bite in the writing. Mark (Mathew Foster) is a high-flyer working in New York, whilst his sister Elyse (Pascale Morrison-Derbyshire) is recovering from the breakdown of a five year relationship. Yet, in this production, both look, sound and behave like adolescents. If the characters had been played older, maybe they would have had the gravitas to bring out the play’s darker undertones. As it is, the inconsistency between the characters brought to life on stage and their back stories damages the play significantly and, if Marietta Kirkbride’s intention was to show how adults revert to their childhood selves when with family in pressured situations, the point is lost. So, from a promising start, this all turns out to be rather a disappointment. There are entertaining moments and, being so short, the play does not drag on, but it ends up being lightweight and insubstantial, when we had hoped for much more.

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