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The Light Trail at the Hope Theatre

Do you hear God? Is it your intention to run Google? Are you working, intensely, on a plan to bring peace to the intractable situation in the Middle East? Do you hear a voice – a voice that suggests it may just be better for all concerned if you decided that you shouldn’t be around anymore and shuffled yourself off this mortal coil?

Yes, we’re talking psychosis, here. Or, to put it in layperson’s terms: madness.

The Light Trail
The Light Trail – Credit Effie French.

The Light Trail is an extraordinarily powerful script written by Lydia Sabatini. Sabatini clearly knows her subject and pulls off a remarkable trick of scratching the surface of a taboo subject whilst at the same time plumbing the depths of that same subject. Using three performers in the roles of Jas, Ellie and Priya – three apparently ordinary young women – the actors also double up as parents, relations, doctors and psychiatrists. Their clear intention, from the word go, is to take on their audience. They cajole us, challenge us, captivate us and keep us locked in the intimate space of the Hope until we are fully paid-up members of the psycho-club – my trite description of a loose band of people who now have, hopefully, a greater understanding of psychosis, it’s effect on the patient and the consequences for those who are near and dear. This cast gets in our face, gets under our skin and, ultimately, gets right inside our head.

Jas is the unfortunate victim of this unseen disease of the mind and it is her sister, Priya, who has to bear the brunt of her sister’s illogical behaviour. Nusrath Tapadar as Priya is a mini-tornado of wild, unfettered emotion as she grapples with something that she doesn’t really understand, trying to hold a family together whilst her sister is wandering off into a strange, detached no man’s land of delusion. Tapadar is a vibrant ball of energy, getting across Priya’s own mood swings and delivering the dialogue with a knowing perspicacity. Tapadar’s Priya is brash and uncompromising but ultimately finds a touching sisterly tenderness that Priya herself needs as much as Jas. A great performance by Tapadar.

Ellie is Jas’s football team-mate, friend, would-be lover, lover, ex-lover, former friend, football team-mate again, friend and finally, soul-mate. Yeah: it’s complicated. Heather Campbell-Ferguson handles this miscellany of life-roles with engaging aplomb mixed with disorientated passion. That’s a difficult balancing act to pull off and Campbell-Ferguson has all the acting tools to find depth of character in what might seem, at first glance, a superficial personality. She engages us and takes us by the hand to lead us through the hidden minefield of being ambushed by someone’s psychosis and having to deal with it from a distance. A superb, controlled performance from Campbell-Ferguson who shines in her first professional role.

And then there’s Jas. She thinks she’s ordinary, of course. A seventeen-year-old girl with ordinary ideas, ambitions and desires. What she doesn’t realise is that others will think that they are not ordinary things at all; that they are extraordinary things and that she, Jas, is mad. Perhaps the most telling line in the play is when Ellie says to an incredulous Priya: I hope she gets the help she needs.

This is not an easy role and Sophia Decaro gives us the full gamut of emotional turmoil starting with innocent, child-like bemusement at life and people, through more intense questioning of her apparent condition to the explosion of resentment-filled anger at something she can’t control let alone understand. This is a brilliant performance by Decaro, subtly prodding us with smiley deflection in the first half before letting loose a tsunami of emotions in the second. She’s certainly one to watch.

The show is directed by Lata Nobes who is adept at handling this highly emotive subject, making it accessible and relevant to the audience. The final group hug of the sisters and friend after all the traumas is particularly poignant and brings home both the frailty and strength of relationships and, I think, shows that Nobes is working in full sync with cast and writer. Summer Keeling’s lighting is extremely effective, working well in what is a difficult space to light and the music/sound, by Henry Roberts, is effectively complementary – though – again in this space – some of the music over dialogue is a little too loud and drowns out the words. Sorcha Corcoran’s set design is intriguing, working well in the space, and is expertly utilised by Nobes and her cast.

The Hope has reputation for excellent cutting-edge drama and Sabatini’s script powerfully continues this tradition. As a starting point for discussion about what is still pretty much the taboo subject of psychosis, The Light Trail should be seen, and should be rightfully recognised as an important and perceptive documentation of that condition of the mind.

4 stars

Review by Peter Yates

When Essex teenager Jas meets Ellie playing football, there’s an instant spark. Both Ellie and Jas’ older sister Priya worry about what’s best for Jas. But how well do either of them really know her?

The Light Trail is a hilarious and moving play about psychosis and its impact on the lives of people who experience it, told via three interweaving monologues.

The Light Trail underwent a rehearsed reading on Zoom last year, and was since shortlisted for The Women’s Prize 2021. It has received excellent feedback from The Bush, leading to its writer Lydia Sabatini being selected for The Bush Emerging Writer’s Group 2021-22.

Content warnings: the production contains depictions of mental health crisis, injury and psychiatric institutionalisation and references to bullying, suicidality and self-harm.

CAST
Jas – SOPHIA DECARO
Priya – NUSRATH TAPADAR
Ellie – HEATHER CAMPBELL-FERGUSON

Production Team
Writer – LYDIA SABATINI
Director – LATA NOBES
Producer – YUSUF NIAZI & MATT FARLEY

8 – 26 NOV 2022
https://www.thehopetheatre.com/

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Author

  • Peter Yates

    Peter has a long involvement in the theatrical world as playwright, producer, director and designer. His theatre company Random Cactus has taken many shows to the Edinburgh Fringe, the London Fringe and elsewhere and he has been associated with the Wireless Theatre Company since its inception where his short play Lie Detector can be heard: Wireless Theatre Company.

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