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The Light House By Alys Williams at Park Theatre | Review

There are plenty of opportunities for audience participation, but don’t let that put you off – I am living proof that it is entirely possible to sit through the entire show without being called on to do anything at all. Alys Wiliams tells her story, playing herself, or perhaps a version of herself also called Alys, whose boyfriend, Ireland-based Nathan, struggles with mental wellbeing to the point of being rushed to hospital at one point. As Alys explains, his struggles may well be psychological in nature but there are physical consequences, as he loses weight and begins, quite quickly, to look substantially older than he was.

THE LIGHT HOUSE. Photo by Ant Robling.
THE LIGHT HOUSE. Photo by Ant Robling.

Her story comes to life thanks to small but nonetheless useful contributions from members of the audience, an unassuming crowd on press night (Alys even pointed out one of her close friends was in) – patrons became, momentarily, her mum, her dad, her sister, and yes, a younger, happier Nathan, in Paris on a short-term work contract. The show’s title comes from Dún Laoghaire (pronounced Dunleary), a coastal town in County Dublin, which has two piers in its harbour, West and East. Each has a lighthouse.

Alys demonstrates, with considerable aplomb, how there is a strict protocol to be followed if a man (and it is, apparently, invariably a man) falls overboard from a vessel at sea. Cue audience members called upon to shout ‘Man Overboard!’ as per the said protocol. It’s repeated enough times, in an hour-long show, that it’s reasonable to assume not enough attention has been paid to proceedings if the protocol, in its entirety, is forgotten by anyone in the audience any time soon. The whole point, however, is to highlight that there are relatively few situations in life that come with a pre-agreed and pre-rehearsed set of procedures.

But when a mental wellbeing emergency arises, shouldn’t there be a set of guidelines somewhere to follow? It wasn’t clear, according to Alys’ account, what next steps Nathan should take in order to get better. His predicament wasn’t quite the one faced by youngsters in the musical West Side Story – in the song ‘Gee, Officer Krupke’, a young offender is brought by a police officer to a judge, who sends him to an analyst, who sends him to a ‘headshrinker’, who sends him to a social worker, who recommends a spell in prison (thus bringing him before a judge again). Even getting an appointment took a monumental effort for Nathan, Alys and his family, and an initial consultation was months away from when it was booked.

There was something about a clowning scene that spoke volumes about wanting to make people happy, especially someone as depressed as Nathan, a sense that rubbed off on the audience, or at least on the lady who asked to clarify if Alys had managed to wipe all her clown make-up off at the end of the scene. Our friend in the stalls said she had. Spoiler alert: she hadn’t. But the desire to say yes, to try to make people feel good about themselves, won through in the moment. In an earlier scene, another patron’s attempt at improvised dialogue backfired as what he said, while totally plausible, wasn’t how Nathan’s story went. And so it is that no two shows are truly never quite the same for this production.

What makes it work is the focus on living life to the full as best as is feasible. This could have been another very soppy and woeful story but is instead a pragmatic one, with a clarion call to support people whose mental wellbeing is in crisis, quickly and loudly, just as a ship’s crew would swing into action if someone were to fall overboard. An intriguing and thoughtful show.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Love is a complicated business. It gets even more complicated when the person you love doesn’t want to be alive. Tender, funny and defiantly hopeful, The Light House is a real-life story of falling in love and staying in love, even when the lights go out and you’re lost in the dark. It’s a love letter to life.

Join the emergency response as we dance in the kitchen, sing in the streets and try to turn the lights back on. It gets lonely, muddling through these days and nights. So why don’t we do it together?

CREATIVES
WRITER | ALYS WILLIAMS
DIRECTOR | ANDREA HEATON
PRODUCER | RACHAEL HALLIWELL
SOUND DESIGNER | ED HEATON
ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR | ROD DIXON
MOVEMENT DIRECTOR I MAYA CARROLL
SET DESIGNER | EMMA WILLIAMS
LIGHTING DESIGNER | MATTHEW CARNAZZA
ACCESS CONSULTANT | VICKY ACKROYD
WELL-BEING CONSULTANT | NOELLE ADAMES

Alys Williams in association with Park Theatre presents the London Premiere of
The Light House
By Alys Williams
Directed by Andrea Heaton

Plays: Tue 2 Apr – Sat 13 Apr 2024
https://parktheatre.co.uk/

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1 thought on “The Light House By Alys Williams at Park Theatre | Review”

  1. This is a beautiful show, wonderfully acted and amazingly moving. Therapeutic too and life enhancing. Highly recommended

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