Review: No Place Like Hope, at Old Red Lion Theatre
Brutally truthful characters anchor heavyweight subject matter in moving and thought-provoking production
17 November, 2017 — By Mimi Launder
Holly Donovan and Clare Corbett in No Place Like Hope
WHILE serving a community punishment order at a hospice, feisty young Becca meets the acerbic Anna, a cancer patient. It seems like a match made in hell. Yet throughout No Place Like Hope, the duo fall into a strange routine and with it comes an equally bizarre bond.
Becca marches around the sparse hospice room – the stage’s only set – with a loud yet endearing reluctance, while Anna watches, amused but embittered.
For Anna, a life-altering illness weighs her down, while Becca appears to just want to move on with her life. One is in her 30s, the other is a teenager; one is “posh”, as Becca accuses, while the other is a petty criminal; one is ill, whereas the other’s life is just beginning. But mischief unites the duo, as does a no-nonsense loyalty to honesty.
Such brutally truthful characters – who also love a laugh – anchor a subject matter that could easily float off into the saccharine.
But any moment the script slips into self-importance, the in-yer-face laugher of Becca (Holly Donovan) slams it back to Earth. And Anna (Clare Corbett) quashes any misplaced hope, bitterly reminding the audience that life is frail and short.
Nurse Bri (Max Calandrew) watches on stiffly yet kindly, trying to do his job around the two women playing out the drama of illness while delighting in the hilarity of life.
Carla Kingham directs this female-led drama, balancing the leads with finesse and subtlety.
Shave 20 minutes off and the audience would leave the theatre shaking, but too many angst-ridden scenes dilute the potent mixture of bitterness and hope. Yet as it is, expect to sob anyway.
As funny as it is deeply moving and thought-provoking, No Place Like Hope might tell a story we have all heard before but it does so through fearless, fresh eyes.
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