Review: SAD, Omnibus Theatre
Review: SAD, Omnibus Theatre
“Honesty, willingness to tackle the difficult and often misunderstood ideas and the absolutely brilliant cast all make for a fantastic production”
Gloria lives in her attic. But not a V. C. Andrews creepy type of attic – she blasts Bowie and basks in the light of a SAD lamp, and is perfectly content. Or so she says.
The new play written by Victoria Willing and directed by Marie McCarthy is not exactly an easy piece, but it’s not exactly heavy-weight, either.
The show itself explores grief even moreso than seasonal affective disorder as the title would suggest. Incapable of working through her loss – the sudden death of her mother, which she is blaming herself for – Gloria isolates herself both physically and mentally. The themes of escape and loss of purpose are prevalent – Gloria’s neighbour Daniel escapes his hopeless family situation and attempts to masquerade as a progressive-leftist-feminist whilst neglecting his own son; her friend Magda first escapes her father to the UK, only to escape the impasse of immigration life back to Bratislava; Gloria’s daughter Suzie escapes to Australia. Graham, Gloria’s husband, is the only one who does not escape and his desperate attempts to save whatever is left of courage and honesty keep the somewhat dizzy plot together. That Willing was able to get as many laughs and cackles and deadpan humour in the dialogue is genuinely commendable.
Acting is excellent across the board. Debra Baker is a brilliant Gloria, and Kevin N Golding shines as the last-good-man Graham. There is a lot of precision and intelligence to Izabella Urbanowicz’s performance as Gloria’s Slovakian friend, Magda who ponders over a return to her home country whilst battling local bureaucracy and recent theft in her house. Centering and exposing the experience of Central European women on London stages isn’t exactly common, and SAD does it with almost surprising honesty.
There’s also plenty of good – stellar even – dialogue, and particularly when Daniel (positively intolerable and brilliant Lucas Hare) is involved – his games and not-so-subtle understatements are but a thin veil covering the depths of his despair and desperation.
Set design by Alys Whitehead – Gloria’s attic – is simple, effective and quite detailed indeed, and works wonders in a small, slightly claustrophobic space of Omnibus. That all else is left to our imagination only magnifies the prevalent sense of loss.
Sadly, there is a fair bit of interesting ideas that end up leading nowhere – for example, Magda’s interesting (and quite lengthy) suggestion that Gloria should start a YouTube channel instead of recording vlogs for private use only is almost instantly forgotten. The biggest drawback perhaps is that this play should have been either 20 minutes shorter, or 20 minutes longer. Certain (very interesting) subplots end up disappearing rather than being actually resolved, and others seem to drag incessantly. The second act could wrap those nicely and provide more of a narrative skeleton. Alternatively, cutting a couple of scenes could potentially lift the energy a bit and improve pacing.
It’s a great piece. Yes, it would do with small tweaks. But the honesty, willingness to tackle the difficult and often misunderstood ideas and the absolutely brilliant cast all make for a fantastic production.