Old Red Lion, Islington, London – until 2 July 2022
Reviewed by Debra Stottor
Life is complicated, relationships especially so, and this new play by Natalie Ekberg offers valuable insights into how the decisions we make can affect both. At the heart of this story is the meeting of three women, all at different stages in their lives, but all potentially facing up to their own mortality. Each is at a crossroads, and this is the catalyst…
The dialogue – laugh out loud one minute, lump in throat the next – flits from past to present and back again, alternating between conversations among the women, the men and the couples.
We see high-achieving but childless Pamela (Saria Steyl), frustrated mum Corinna (Kaara Benstead, who also produces) and midlife divorcee Samantha (Janine Wood) divulging their most intimate thoughts and realising that each has something the other craves. In many ways it’s the story of everywoman, and is relatable and heartwarming, although their back stories are a little obvious and lacking nuance. Thrown together in a doctor’s waiting room, they make one big decision…
And that decision has devastating consequences. A year after the women have passed, their partners meet in a pub to try and understand the logic behind that spontaneous, yet fatal decision.
The male characters are less well rounded, but as the ones affected by the ‘big decision’, they offer a necessary counterpoint, the other side of the story. Here we meet rakish, charming Alan (Nick Morrison-Baker), divorced but ultimately best friends with Samantha, suave but selfish Juan, left literally holding Pamela’s baby, and Patrick (Jermaine Dominique), thrust into the role of sole carer after ducking his duties for so long. Their story is less about change than dealing with the aftermath of a change that has been forced up on them – and with associated feelings such as anger, resentment and, ultimately, forgiveness and understanding.
This may not be a complicated story, but it’s well told and held together by strong performances from the entire cast. Be prepared to laugh and cry. With a running time of about 80 minutes, this single-act play packs an emotional punch and will leave the audience considering their own lives and he decisions they face.
Diversifications is the first theatre production from Gingerstripes Productions, established by Benstead with the aim of creating opportunities for theatre makers of all backgrounds but especially working class.