Brighton Fringe 2016
1 in 3 is a new play, written and directed by Anthony Orme from Liverpool-based Now You Know productions, which explores the deep and truthful world of chemotherapy and how everyone, one day, has to face their mortality.
1 in 3 is a brave play, walking into territory that few choose to explore unless they really have to: what it’s like to live with cancer. It’s ironic this play still seems brave today, when one in three of us will have cancer at some point in our lives (hence the play’s title), and all of us know someone who has had cancer. In a society that still tries its hardest to look away from the impact of cancer, 1 in 3 is a powerful call to look mortality in the eye, and to live our lives fully every day.
The play centres on an ongoing conversation between two cancer patients – a 41 year old man, Jeff, and 17 year old girl, Jasmine – and is set in one room: the chemotherapy treatment room at a local cancer clinic.
The play’s cast was confident and capable. In particular, Alice Merivale gave a great performance as Jasmine, playing her with such vivid depth and passion that the character’s complexity really shone through: her tenacity, grit and love for life, her teenage gawkiness, and also her wisdom well beyond her years. And David Keogh portrayed Jeff’s anxiety and pent up rage with his illness with a quiet, twisting intensity – he really held the stage in the moments he was alone.
The other two parts, Dr Hall and nurse Sam, ably played by Laura Ellis and Emily-Jane Ashford, were bright, smiley, upbeat (and slightly bland) supporting roles. When, at a couple of points, Emily-Jane Ashford gave us a small glimpse of the depth of her relationship with Jasmine, and how tough it is for cancer nurses to do their work, she left me wanting to see more. Although the play’s narrative was sharply focused on the cancer patients, it felt like some more in-depth characterisation of the two medical professionals would add to the realism and impact of of the play.
The play’s writing generally flowed well, and the narrative was clearly structured. Personal stories told by Jeff and Jasmine drew the audience closer to their characters, and most of the time, it was like witnessing a real conversation. However, there were a few off-stage plotlines that would benefit from some sharpening up to feel absolutely real: for example, Jeff’s relationship with his wife and Jasmine’s telephone conversation/relationship with her dad.
The direction of the play was solid; it felt like the whole production was in capable hands. The set was perfect for the piece and the venue – two armchairs chairs focused our attention on the main characters and IV drips instantly placed us in a medical institution. Scenes of intense conversation, in which the characters were largely immobile, were interspersed with music, dimmed light, and rapid comings and goings (signifying time passing). When, suddenly, some of those elements weren’t there or didn’t happen, it was a clear sign that something had changed.
I recommend this thoughtful, heartfelt and well-produced play to everyone who might be affected by cancer – ie all of us. By showing us two perspectives on what it is to have cancer, it has the power to start many new conversations both about cancer and about living right here, right now.
I interviewed Alice Merivale after the performance, and heard more about Anthony Orme’s inspiration for the play and why playing Jasmine was so important to her: