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A Bit of Me at the Hope Theatre | Review

I recently read about a sex crime victim who filed a formal complaint against Thames Valley Police, because the police claimed they couldn’t find his abuser, but he had managed to find him himself after a couple of hours of searching online. I don’t know what the viewing figures are for reality television shows these days – sufficient, I suppose, for programmes of that nature to continue, even in these days of TikTok, Netflix and various other platforms. As Lisa (Dayna Browning), a twentysomething who has done so much clubbing she is starting to tire of it, settles in for the evening, she sees someone as a contestant in a show whom she very definitely recognises.

A Bit Of Me CastIn a similar manner to the victim of abuse (though I should hasten to add there are no crimes against the person being committed in this story), Lisa turns to the internet, including social media, for confirmation of her suspicions about the contestant. She messages Angela (Sarah Pick) on socials, though it’s not clear exactly what the message says – Angela shows it to her husband Cameron (Philip Jennings) and he appears unbothered by its content. Nonetheless, Angela sees it fit to block Lisa.

The main plotline concerns Emma (Anna Bradley), Cameron and Angela’s eighteen-year-old adopted daughter – the parents find out she is to join a reality show, with two weeks’ notice. Both ‘Cam’ and ‘Ang’ have their reasons, collective and individual, for objecting, and while there is a smattering of father/daughter tension, the play lacks a properly explosive scene. But then this is neither Love Island nor Coronation Street, so the arguments and tantrums are left for the small screen.

The trade-off, however, is that the four on-stage characters are always civilised – the most amount of friction between the parents comes when Cameron sits on a cushion, so it supports his bottom rather than his back, much to Angela’s chagrin. What might have been an emotionally wrought conversation once it becomes clear who Lisa ‘really’ is and what connection she has to Emma is not even described in full, but merely summarised. A little too much is left to the audience’s imagination to piece together. It’s evidently secondary to the story, but it would have been nice to know, for instance, how far Emma progressed in the reality show. Was it like I’m A Celebrity, with a loved one waiting upon exit?

The set is functional, with a side table and a couple of chairs and a rather abstract hanging display of some kind. Characters seated on chairs in a studio space without tiered seating for the audience is, believe it or not, a relief: I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen characters in various productions sat on the floor, with nobody apart from front row patrons getting a decent view! The show makes good use of the performance space, and the direct addresses to the audience helped maintain rapport.

The basic structure of the play doesn’t need changing but the storyline needs to be fleshed out more. It’s pleasant – very pleasant – to see people getting along, especially in a world with so much strife and anger. But I didn’t feel I got to know the characters in depth, and I’d have liked more than ‘child looks like parent’ in terms of observations about them. Still, the production demonstrated that in the digital era, keeping secrets is incredibly difficult, and this committed cast worked well to pull off a slick and agreeable, if brief, show.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

A new play, and professional debut from writer Eleanor Kumar, A Bit Of Me is a contemporary drama centring a family fighting to hold it together in the face of unwanted national attention.

In Birmingham, eighteen-year-old Emma is getting ready to jet off to the Love Island villa. Outraged by his daughter’s decision, Cameron fears for his family’s reputation, but Emma’s Mum, Ang, has much bigger worries. She knows that the sudden limelight has the potential to uproot a painful secret, one she has worked hard to keep buried.

Elsewhere in the city, twenty-eight-year-old retail worker Lisa is tired of the club scene, and would rather stay home watching crap telly. When she sticks on her favourite comfort show one night, she’s shocked to see a face she recognises. What Lisa does next will shake the foundation of the family unit Ang has fought tooth and nail to build.

Cast & Creatives
Emma: Anna Bradley
Angela: Sarah Pick
Cameron: Philip Jennings
Lisa: Dayna Browning
Writer & Director: Eleanor Kumar

The Hope Theatre, 207 Upper Street, Islington, London, N1 1RL
Sun 17th March 2024 – Mon 18th March 2024, 7:45 pm
https://www.thehopetheatre.com/

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