I Will Miss You When You’re Gone, Starbound Theatre, Hen and Chickens Theatre, Islington

The lights come up on the black and white world of the living. Evelyn, wrapped in a long, white puffer jacket, jumps off a box. From the accompanying sound effects, it is clear that she has landed on a car and is dead.

One of her colleagues (Celeste) has been trying to contact her dead mother’s ghost (Theresa). Instead, she gets Evelyn. Meanwhile, Celeste’s boss (Robin) is greeted by Theresa’s ghost. The dead are costumed in brightly coloured clothes, clearly signalling their unsuitability for the living world: they are easier to see, but perhaps harder to understand. Both living characters struggle to comprehend what they are seeing and why, yet by the time the ghosts leave, each character has learnt something about themselves. An interesting concept is explored with 4 fantastic female actors, but raises some issues about mental health representation for me, which leaves me thinking about the show.

Characters were believable and mostly well-developed, however in places the writing or delivery seemed a little unsure of itself, using clichés which the actors perhaps felt uncommitted to: moments where characters hyperventilated and tried to determine in squeaky voices ‘How could this have happened?’.

For me, the most memorable moment in the piece, is when Theresa first meets Robin. Robin is trying desperately to ignore the ghost and get on with her work. Theresa is singing along to loud country music, and mom-dancing around the space. Certainly, this was the most heart-warming: this woman (played by Sharon Drain) was fantastically natural, an utterly convincing funny mother. Suddenly, I understood on another level why Celeste missed her mother so much, and immediately felt a little homesick- good performances remind you of your life, and in this case, make you long for your own mother.

The playwright and company describe themselves as feminists, which is (I suppose) why the cast/production team is almost entirely female. It is wonderful to see four women working together on stage, and beautiful to explore the intimate mother/daughter dynamic. Despite this, I think either of the other characters could have been male, and it would have introduced the concept of dangerously neglected male mental health: the over-worker or the secretly suicidal. However, perhaps this would have distracted from the wonderfully portrayed main theme of mother/daughter grief or changed the other characters power dynamic.

This leads me to consider their representation of mental health. The leaflet says it is a play about mental health, but no guidance is given on dealing with a mental health issue, beyond taking ones own life or hugging your boss. Furthermore, neither the performance nor the program direct anyone to where they could get help. Personally,

I think when dealing with potentially triggering themes, it would be beneficial to add to the program a small sign to where you can seek help.

Despite the traditional narrative (ghosts come to teach someone the error of their ways) this play is a truly interesting concept, in which the writer considers the importance of grief. Moss questions how we grieve: is it useful to hold onto someone’s ashes after their death? How does our grief affect those around us? The programme says that the company aim to explore ‘the theme of identity’, and as I left the theatre I was indeed considering my own experiences of death and how these had influenced my world view.

Chloe Phillips-Bartlett (20th September, 2018)

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2 thoughts on “I Will Miss You When You’re Gone, Starbound Theatre, Hen and Chickens Theatre, Islington

  1. Felicity Fitz says:

    I really loved this play. I think it’s disappointing that you took this opportunity to say that men should have been included. There are lots of plays and movies that feature men and talk about their troubles – maybe not specifically mental health, but women have so little. I was motivate to write because I”m currently talking to my friend in America who is traumatized by the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, and she’s seeing a woman talking about sexual assault and constantly apologizing, being made to feel less, being told that she might damage a man’s career. I thought this was a beautiful beautiful testament to diverse women and emotion, and I wish you hadn’t sabotaged the play by mentioning something that it could have been, when it already was so much. No wonder so many women feel so bad. Wish you hadn’t said that. Very hurtful.

    Like

    • twolassesinlondon says:

      Hi Felicity,

      Firstly I must begin by saying each and every one of us has been moved, sadden and angered by the Kavanaugh testimonies- especially as they came so close to the Bill Crosby sentencing. It is yet another reopening of wounds that we have seen repeatedly over the past year.

      I do also have to say that Chloe, who is a new reviewer working for us, wrote this piece based on her opinions and feelings having seen the show last Thursday. We believe that feminism is about equality and that the patriarchy has a negative effect on everyone and that men speaking more openly about their mental health is an important issue and one that is necessary when we are striving for equality

      You are equally as entitled to your opinion that it wasn’t appropriate to mention it in this review. Neither Kirsty or I saw this play as we were either at another play or at work, so I don’t feel in a position to comment directly on this case. It is always the case that people will bring their own experiences and views to each show meaning they interpret it differently to the person sitting beside them, whether they’re strangers or family.

      The company have responded to the review thanking us for our kind words and agreed with the suggestion to include trigger warnings and information of support networks.

      Like

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