The Five Stages of Waiting is playing at the Tristan Bates Theatre from Monday 4th to Saturday 9th August 2014, as part of the Camden Fringe Festival. The aim of the festival is to give anyone the chance to perform and showcase their talents from very experienced performers and companies, to ambitious newcomers. The Five Stages of Waiting was written by Caro Dixey in 2011 and was chosen to be developed as a full production for the Camden Fringe by Vertical Line Theatre.
The idea behind the play: “Three sisters, one waiting room and a tumour the size of a potato” is a solid one. We meet three estranged sisters, Liz, Jen and Sarah, performed by Sarah Winn, Sophie Spreadbury and Charlie Blackwood. The sisters are estranged for a reason, and as the play progresses we learn why.
The play explores the universal truth that cancer is here, and we all have to deal with it in our lives. Whether this is as the person who gives the diagnosis, the patient, the patient’s child, best friend or sister! As the drama unfolds we experience various coping methods that people use to get through the awkward and unpleasant stages of waiting.
Cancer is an uncomfortable subject and one that I haven’t seen explored in the theatre before. For me, it was exciting to watch an all-female cast working with a sensitive topic such as this. Unfortunately I don’t think the play quite hit the mark, and rather than an emotive piece that evoked emotions or embraced empathy I found myself waiting for the play to be over.
Saying this, there were still some utter gems in this production that should not be ignored.
Charlie Blackwood, playing the rather reserved and mumsy older sister Sara who dropped out of school to have kids and get married, gave a fantastic portrayal of an emotional drunk woman, reverting back to her childhood self, and delivering lines and movement with full conviction. Playing drunk is at times difficult to portray convincingly, and I must applaud her for getting it spot on!
I must also commend Donna Marsh who played Abby. Donna showed great comic timing and gave consistent light relief to what could have become a seriously depressing play. I felt the character is well written, and Donna Marsh demonstrated the balance between playing the role for laughs, and showing the compassion and emotion that she was also experiencing in this unpleasant situation.
All three sisters gave committed performances in that they were not afraid to allow silence in the performance. Sometimes it was more about what was not said. This was in stark contrast to moments of the play when the characters’ spoke over each other (Caryl Churchill’s writing style in Top Girls), and also parts where their screaming and shouting scenes didn’t feel controlled, and really didn’t work. As an audience member I was confused, not sure who to listen to, and to be honest I don’t think this recurring part of the play enhanced it in any way. I would be keen to see this piece again but after more development work.
Review by Faye Stockley
The Tristan Bates Theatre
4th August 2014- Saturday 9th August 2014
Running Time: 75 minutes (approx.)
020 7240 6283
Tuesday 5th August 2014