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Review of SAD at Omnibus Theatre

Gloria (Debra Baker) is self-isolating, staying in the attic of a London house, but not because she’s had two lines appear on a lateral flow test. She is not, by her own admission, exactly independent, having food and other supplies brought to her by Graham (Kevin N Golding), and being visited by friend Magda (Izabella Urbanowicz) and neighbour Daniel (Lucas Hare), though not at the same time.

Kevin N Golding (plays Graham) Debra Baker (plays Gloria).
Kevin N Golding (plays Graham) Debra Baker (plays Gloria).

Magda and Daniel get to know one another through a rather predictable plot twist, in a show that becomes just as much about the imponderables and impracticalities of public sector bureaucracy as it is about Gloria’s struggle to come to terms with the death of her mother.

Gloria is, perhaps naturally, reluctant to talk about it, and the rest of the characters are either already aware of what went on, or it is otherwise an irrelevant point in any of their interactions with her. Despite the play’s title, it only really scratches the surface of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – not much is said about it, other than Gloria emphasising repeatedly that she has it. There is, at least, some evidence of coping strategies, such as a light box and regular video diary entries recorded onto her trusty laptop. They are for private consumption only – Magda’s suggestion that Gloria should open a YouTube account is given short shrift.

There are a number of subplots going on but the play could do with another act to explore these more thoroughly. I don’t think I came away, for instance, with much – if anything – about what Gloria’s mother was like, or indeed why, despite being well into adulthood, Gloria is struggling to cope with everyday living to the point where she has left her job. It’s a struggle to care much for Gloria, with her bitter resentment expressed through either moaning or being dismissive. Had she been more acid-tongued in her criticisms, she may have been more entertaining.

There does, fortunately, or unfortunately, come a point in which emotions run so high they explode, and it would be too simplistic to conclude the production is sympathetic towards violence, even in the context of being repetitively provoked. But it’s telling when one comes away with more knowledge about the London Borough of Lambeth’s housing policies (or rather, this play’s interpretation of it) than about any of the on or off-stage characters.

Perhaps the cluttered nature of the attic, as well as the plethora of issues that the characters, individually and collectively, are going through, is indicative of the unpredictability of contemporary living. But I feel as though I’m being overly optimistic: both the attic and the narrative arc could do with a tidy up. Interestingly, none of them are going anywhere: despite a relatively lucrative job offer overseas that Magda receives, she decides to stay put. One would be forgiven for thinking that a theft in her house (it can’t, for reasons explained in the narrative, technically be called a break-in) would have been the last straw. Hell is other people, as the old adage would have it.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

A brand-new dark comedy about escaping your problems and the messiness of life.
Get your arse out of here and come downstairs and be a normal person. Just be a normal bloody person!

On Christmas Day Gloria cooked the turkey that killed her mother. Now Gloria’s in the attic, sleeping on a dog bed and shitting in a bucket.

She’s perfectly content though. Her friend Magda visits. Her husband Graham brings ham sandwiches. Her neighbour Daniel fits perfectly through the Velux. In fact, as long as she can blast Bowie and bask in the light of her SAD lamp, there’s no reason to come downstairs at all.

A dark comedy about escaping your problems and the messiness of life.

5-30 APRIL 2022


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