Edinburgh Fringe 2017
When a fiercely independent, workaholic police officer finds herself on the street where her brother once lived, she is propelled back to her vibrant childhood and forced to confront his death. Flooded with memories of the times they spent together, she remembers the wonderment with which she used to see the world and comes to terms with her loss.
A young policewoman prepares for her sergeant interview; if successful she’ll be the youngest sergeant in the borough. Prawns, her birthday, a routine visit to a family bereaved by suicide, the prawns again, a parcel from her mother, next door’s cat (the reincarnation of his great aunt apparently) all serve to set the scene and propel her onto a journey which forces her to address the past.
This is the story of a young woman coming to terms with the loss of her brother and finally realising that she needs to embrace the memory of him in order to move on with her life. Strong storytelling, honesty and humour are at the core of this new solo play in which Nicola Wren explores what it is to grow up, accept loss, be vulnerable and celebrate the past, however painful.
Written and performed by Wren it is a beautifully nuanced piece of new writing. She moves fluidly between addressing the audience directly and creating scenes with her colleagues, family, brother and others. Dreams bring elements of the story to the fore without dominating or losing the narrative of the story. As she moves back and forth between dreams, scenes of her childhood and the present, she vividly creates her world and her story. Her physicality is particularly skilful with a slightly tense, awkward gait of a young woman in a generally man’s world needing to prove she is as good as they are. She is used to being in uniform and is slightly awkward out of it, carries herself as though still wearing it. As a child she is a lively and convincing ten year old, on a train on her own for the first time.
Director and dramaturg, George Chilcott, has applied a light touch in terms of direction but every line is well placed suggesting a lots of work went into creating the overall shape and emphasis of each scene. There is the simplest of sets – just a metal bench that serves many purposes – but Wren makes use of every inch of the stage.
As is often the case with Fringe shows she is not blessed with ideal neighbours. One of the most poignant moments of the play as it moves towards the climax is overshadowed by noise bleed from a neighbouring space. However, a rousing rendition of the 1991 hit ‘Sit Down’ (James) provides both resounding competition and a significant turning point for the character.
This is a warm and witty play that addresses the sensitive topic of loss through a character and story that we could all identify with. The audience were spellbound throughout.