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I Think We Are Alone at Theatre Royal Stratford East | Review

Polly Frame and Charlotte Bate - I Think We Are Alone Frantic Assembly credit Tristram Kenton.
Polly Frame and Charlotte Bate – I Think We Are Alone Frantic Assembly credit Tristram Kenton.

Sally Abbott’s I Think We Are Alone is a simple, naturalistic and rather beautiful play about feelings and families. Refreshingly, it does not attempt to subvert theatrical forms nor beguile with meta-philosophical concepts. Tightly plotted and pacey, it takes us through six intertwined lives and emotions at key moments of love, loss and redemption. Although this play is enacted via a series of vignettes that create a sense of swirling montage of human bonds and interactions, rather than in a straight linear narrative structure, the story-telling is largely rooted in traditions of realism and it works. The stories, in their universality, are able to resonate and connect thanks to this play’s highly crafted and uncluttered dramatic essence.

Although Kathy Burke and Scott Graham’s staging has expressionistic moments and relies on a dynamic set (by Morgan Large) of a series of glass box walls on wheels that adapt rapidly to create different spaces (with wonderful light-painting and mood-shaping from Paul Keogan’s lighting design), most scenes are short moments of dialogue between characters at key reunions or critical life/death moments. Masterfully, Abbott’s writing is economical without being sparse. She creates warmth, jeopardy, tragedy and just the right amount of exposition to draw us in; eliciting plenty of belly laughs and more than a few sniffles and tears.

The mother-son dynamic of Josie (Chizzy Akudolu) and Manny (Caleb Robert) is exceptionally affecting thanks in no small part to Akudolu’s outstanding comic timing and Robert’s impressive range. The entire cast offers strong performances requiring wit and emotional vulnerability. Burke and Graham’s direction is sharp and skilled; their canny use of props to show us the overwhelming world of Ange’s life as a hospice nurse is particularly adept.

Whilst this play is in many ways an uplifting humanistic drama, it is fitting for its premiere at Joan Littlewood’s legendary theatre, that it also pulls no punches from moments of working-class rage that just need to be said and are indeed said very well. However, unlike many a polemic of despair preaching to the converted, I Think We Are Alone takes us on a journey that is about connections of all and every kind; without sanctimony or sentimentality. This play is a dramatic triumph thanks to truthful and courageous writing with performances and staging to match.

4 stars

Review by Mary Beer

Frantic Assembly and Theatre Royal Plymouth, with Curve, present I Think We Are Alone, a major new play by Sally Abbott, co-directed by Kathy Burke and Scott Graham. Currently touring throughout the UK, playing at Theatre Royal Stratford East until 21 March, the production sits at the centre of a year of programming celebrating 25 years of Frantic Assembly.

Chizzy Akudolu, Charlotte Bate, Polly Frame, Caleb Roberts, Simone Saunders, and Andrew Turner star in this delicate and uplifting new play about our fragility, resilience and need for love and forgiveness. I Think We Are Alone is a bittersweet and funny take on our ache to connect with those voices we need to hear again, those arms we need to feel around us and those faces we need to see again.

Josie: Chizzy Akudolu
Ange: Charlotte Bate
Clare: Polly Frame
Manny: Caleb Roberts
Bex: Simone Saunders
Graham: Andrew Turner
Grandad: Tarinn Callender

Written by Sally Abbott
Co-directed by Kathy Burke and Scott Graham
Designed by Morgan Large
Lighting by Paul Keogan
Sound by Ella Wahlstrom
Associate Director Jessica Williams
Producer Peter Holland

A Frantic Assembly and Theatre Royal Plymouth Production,
co-produced with Curve
I Think We Are Alone
By Sally Abbott
Co-directed by Kathy Burke and Scott Graham
TUE 25 FEB – SAT 21 MAR 2020


  • Mary Beer

    Mary graduated with a cum laude degree in Theatre from Columbia University’s Barnard College in New York City. In addition to directing and stage managing several productions off-Broadway, Mary was awarded the Helen Prince Memorial Prize in Dramatic Composition for her play Subway Fare whilst in New York. Relocating to London, Mary has worked in the creative sector, mostly in television broadcast and production, since 1998. Her creative and strategic abilities in TV promotion, marketing and design have been recognised with over 20 industry awards including several Global Promax Golds. She is a founder member of multiple creative industry and arts organisations and has frequently served as an advisor to the Edinburgh International TV Festival.

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