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Review of Awakening at the Old Red Lion Theatre

AwakeningAwakening is a big challenge for just one woman. It shows us Cassie (Kirsty Osmon) waking up on her 26th birthday in a garden. She hurts everywhere – but this isn’t an ordinary hangover. As the play unravels we hear about Cassie’s breakup which seems to have led to her spiraling out of control, losing friends along the way and turning to drugs, sex and parties as a coping method.

The set has to be remarked upon. Astroturf serves first as the garden in which a disheveled Cassie wakes up and then as the stage on which she tells her story. An arch stands above this stage with various props attached to it. It adds to the feeling of mismatched and colourful chaos that currently reflects Cassie’s life. It is used again and again to represent various places. Fairy lights become a teenage girls bedroom, her phone is attached to the arch as she desperately charges it in a café and a whisk is pulled from the arch to show her cooking back in a room with her ex-boyfriend. This inventiveness is something Osmon never drops. She multi-roles throughout, using glasses to become a pharmacist and a bin lid becomes a tray with a cleverly placed Dr Pepper Can attached to it, allowing her to become a waitress.

Osmon’s multi-rolling is a big feature of the narrative. Whilst I admire her taking on so many roles herself it does become a little repetitive and confusing. Some of the character’s, such as the overly zealous pharmacist, are well executed and make for great comic moments. However, as it goes on, some voices become merged. Cassie interacts with the other characters in the show and there is sometimes not a long enough pause between the character’s speech. As Cassie speaks with her friend Rosie, with whom she has fallen out, Rosie’s cockney accent becomes intertwined with Cassie’s own accent and the focus becomes a little confused. Perhaps more devices could have been utilized to create each character. Ex-boyfriend Dennis’s voice is brought to us via a pre-recorded audio. This is a clear distinct difference and gives Osmon a bit of a break – perhaps more of the characters could have come through in such ways, a video clip, or the help of an audience member.

Cassie’s haphazard ways are relateable and likeable at the start. We appreciate the struggles of this twenty-something and are on her side. But as the plot goes on, the tale becomes darker. Cassie thinks she may have been raped. This is obviously a huge topic for Osmon to navigate but I’m not sure the balance was quite there. The comic moments were a joy to watch, and we were totally with her but as the story continued we may have had a bit too much script to get to grips within such a short amount of time.

We learnt of her break-up, lost friendship, a friend who had died, a drug dealer, an interaction with a 14-year-old that made her want to acknowledge the abuse she believed she had fallen victim to. It was a lot of information and became a little difficult to digest. It led to a confession and eventual acknowledgement of rape but the journey was a little too much to take in.

Nevertheless, her confession and the talk around rape packed a punch. Awakening is a brave show and Osmon makes for a watchable performer. The execution and script could do with some tweaking but this performance was certainly a great attempt and had an important message about consent, assault and blame.

3 Star Review

Review by Freya Bardell

It’s the morning of Cassie’s twenty-sixth birthday, and she wakes to find herself in someone’s front garden with no recollection of how she got there. As Cassie struggles to retrace the night, she finds herself moving between memories of her past dubious behaviour and her present circumstances.

Awakening is a fierce, funny, painfully honest journey that leads to shocking truths, and a self-awareness Cassie has been avoiding for years. Can she heal old wounds, address her self-destructive tendencies and find the courage to do the right thing? Or has she cried wolf too many times?

This brand new solo show from writer and performer Kirsty Osmon (winner of the Manchester Evening News Award for Best Newcomer) takes inspiration from real-life stories of women on nights out to question attitudes towards consent and our relationship with alcohol.

At a time when there is greater awareness of the voices of victims of sexual assault, Awakening unpicks the moment of realisation when Cassie is forced to face up to painful truths and speak up to wrong doing in order to protect future generations of young women.

Featured in Lyn Gardner’s guide for what to see at the Fringe, Awakening will be at Buttercup, Underbelly 1st-27th August (not 13th) at 14:35.

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