Brighton Fringe 2018
Is it the end, or the start of something beautiful ? These interwoven monologues about love and loss are tightly written and extraordinarily real. Three poignant and subtle performances turn them into something that is indeed beautiful.
Is it the end, or the start of something beautiful ?
The Start of Something by Jamie Lakritz won Best New Play at Woking Festival in 2016. This production, by The Drama Wheel, is early in its run, having previously been performed script-in-hand in Lewes.
It tells the at first separate but increasingly interwoven stories of three women, recently bereaved Amy, young Mum Emma and middle-aged singleton Evelyn. Exploring stories of different kinds of loss in love, Lakritz asks us (just as the lyrics of Amy’s husband’s favourite song do) if these endings might also be the beginnings of something.
The writing is tight and extraordinarily real, the characters thinking their doubts and fears out loud whilst all the while carrying the narrative along. These are three distinct characters but Lakritz keeps them from becoming caricatures. Initially unconnected, the three stories begin to ever around each other, ultimately creating a tight knot of interdependence. Once they start, the revealing of these connections follow swiftly on the tail of each other, and perhaps a tiny bit of editing might smooth this arc a little.
The actors give three moving performances that are engaging yet subtle. Kate Isitt’s utterly believable fragility in the wake of her husband’s recent death – a grief tempered by anger and self blame – opens the play. It is her storytelling that forms the spine of the narrative and sets the emotional tone. Kathleen Cranham is funny, sweary and pragmatic as Emma, a young mum who’s relationship with the father of her child is in trouble. Cranham was the consummate professional, battling a chest infection and nasty cough, and the cast all dealt with this well, ad libbing around it rather than it becoming a distraction. Sharon Lewes-Lloyd was charming yet disarming as Evelyn, her initial self-deprecating stories about an ‘Older Flames’ dating event and a hopeless infatuation morphing into something steelier as things go wrong and right, and wrong and right again, and the secret of her past is revealed.
A little more rehearsal time will mean that the cast won’t need to follow the script between monologues, but I hope won’t eradicate the lovely sense of interaction between actors, all the more pleasing because there is no real time interaction between their characters.
The staging is very simple. Lights up and down at the start and end. The eponymous piece of music by Voxtrot playing us out. (This could have played for longer, at least long enough for the audience to ‘clock’ some of the lyrics). One stage were just two chairs and script folders for the two actors who are ‘off’ at any time. A singing bowl on a stand that is used to signal the handovers between them. This last felt a little superfluous and distracted from the moment, although it may have been designed to do just that – to wake us from reflection ready to give our attention to the next performer.
The mostly female audience were warmly appreciative of this poignant, relatable and nicely executed piece. This ‘Hidden Gem’ is a clever and moving contribution to the genre and, as it continues in its run will no doubt play to larger audiences. If Drama Wheel can maintain the piece’s charm alongside this growth, it will be a big success.