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Kindred by Aimee Walker-Reid at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

Dark humour permeates this show – if a week is a long time in politics (and it is), it seems even longer in the lives of Lois (Aimee Walker-Reid) and Matt (Finlay Vane Last), a young couple who are about to marry. Mercifully, the audience is spared most of the rigmarole of wedding planning – even if I’m fairly certain, in the right hands, a decent play could be made merely out of the ridiculous markups various retailers and suppliers put on for people who require goods and services for their big day.
There are, alas, bigger things at stake than financial expenses. Indeed, there is only a cursory mention of Matt living off Lois’ income, though it is evidently something that Lois has been able to sustain. Matt has – well, it’s not entirely clear what he has – but he is unable to leave the flat he shares with Lois by himself, the problem, whatever it is, being psychological rather than physical. A cursory Google search after the show suggests cognitive therapy, relaxation, breathing exercises, meditation and so on as possible treatments, which to my mind makes Matt’s assertion that the pills he has been supplied with to take simply don’t work a highly credible one.

This isn’t, however (quelle surprise), how Lois sees it, repeatedly demanding to know why he hasn’t taken his medication, and their row quickly becomes cyclical: the drugs don’t work, he says, to which she responds that they can’t possibly work if he doesn’t take them. The whole point of the wedding, at least for them, is to demonstrate their lifelong commitment to one another in front of friends and family, and despite both groups being unseen characters, let’s just say it’s very true that people can choose the former but not the latter.

I couldn’t help but feel that Matt had been somewhat fobbed off by his doctor, having been told to take various tablets, as though shaking him would result in being able to hear the pills. There’s much empathy with Lois, too, even if I was slightly baffled as to why she didn’t postpone the wedding if it was clear Matt was still having problems with going into the town centre by himself, let alone standing in front of a gathering of people at their wedding.

I quite liked the idea of a ‘divorce party’, which Lois’ sister throws in the same week as Matt and Lois’ wedding: it is, I suppose, an opportunity to celebrate being freed from the tyranny of the other person. I would have thought it would be less appropriate if there were children involved, which didn’t seem to be the case. The set, meanwhile, transforms relatively quickly from front room to party venue and back again, and some of the costume changes take place on stage, a point I hadn’t realised until afterwards. And why not? People can change clothes wherever they wish in their own living space.

At the heart of the narrative is a consideration of what happens when Lois the carer isn’t herself cared for. Aside from providing some explosive dramatic tension – the play gets dangerously close to being like the shouty stuff of a television soap opera argument, before drawing back – it’s difficult to watch. Lois says things that she is more than intelligent and sophisticated enough to know is not going to help Matt get any better, but finds cathartic release in letting rip. The nuanced performances from both actors make this a compelling and intriguing production, and for a debut play, it’s a highly promising start.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

It’s the most important week of their lives.

On Saturday Matt is meant to be marrying Lois, the love of his life. Bad timing. Right now, he struggles to leave the flat alone. But as the couple try to prepare for the happiest day of their lives, with each step towards order, fate has other plans. The week starts with a funeral instead.

After a punch up at the wake, it’s up to Lois to keep the week from spiralling out of control. And as Matt’s anxiety increases, very soon it’s not just the ‘big day’ at stake but the relationship itself.

Creative Team:
Directed by George Rowlands
Assistant Director: Morgan Burgess
Set Design: Aimee Walker-Reid & Jayden Lewis
Lighting Design: Grace Gjertson
Musical Director / Composer: Morgan Burgess
Movement Director: Aimee Walker-Reid
Operator: Charlie Heptinstall
Produced by Kefi Theatre

Lois: Aimee Walker-Reid Matt: Finlay Vane Last

by Aimee Walker-Reid
directed by George Rowlands
produced by Kefi Theatre

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