The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted
by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others
by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review
the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.
Field Day Theatre and BBC iPlayer Spring 2021
This strong and
affecting drama is about memory and tradition, love and hatred, sex and
singing, covid, couples counselling and 1990s American TV. Being set in
Belfast, it is also inevitably about Catholics and Protestants.
David Ireland not only does full justice to all these topics but brings
them all under a perceptual umbrella that makes them fit together in a
convincing and evocative general insight into life.
play to a single statement reduces it, but Sadie is at least in part
about how not just ourselves but our perceptions of reality are shaped
by our pasts, both personal and cultural.
method is to bring us fully within the consciousness and perceptions of
one character and then slowly to separate us so we begin to see that
what we took as simple fact might not have been objective reality.
Sadie is a
middle-aged working-class Belfast Protestant who we meet meandering
aimlessly through her memories, which are literally brought onstage for
us to see.
If she mentions
someone – her favourite uncle, say, or her ex-husband – he enters from
the wings, looking as she remembers him. If she recalls a scene, it is
played out before us.
The story Sadie
wants to tell is, in her own phrase, a rom-com, about how she recently
started a satisfying affair with a younger man. But from the very first
moments we might begin to notice that her memories and narrative are not
fully under her control.
onstage uninvited or question minor details in her narrative. At one
point her toyboy drags her to couples counselling and the therapist is a
jargon-spouting cliché we are as quick as Sadie to dismiss, until the
playwright guides us to the suspicion that this is how Sadie chooses to
see her as a defence against the therapist's insights.
through the slow undermining of Sadie's tales of a happy childhood and
an ordinary marriage, we discover truths about her life and about the
very act of reminiscing we've been part of that are both dark and
totally believable. And we see how such distortions were almost
inevitable given who, where and when Sadie is.
If there is any
criticism to be made of the playwright's vision and methods it is that
some of the revelations, however convincing, approach clichés,
generating a slight air of anticlimax, and that some, while not
telegraphed long in advance, become evident a little ahead of time,
reducing the shock effect.
directed by Conleth Hill, Abigail McGibbon not only makes Sadie fully
rounded and believable, but makes sure she never loses our sympathy even
as our perceptions are being separated from her.
(uncle), David Pearse (ex), Santino Smith (lover) and Andrea Irvine
(therapist) all skilfully navigate the path of being introduced as Sadie
sees them and gradually evolving into their actual characters.
Sophie was scheduled for production by Belfast's Field Day Theatre Company in 2020 but foiled by lockdown. It was recorded for a single showing on BBC4 and is available for a year on iPlayer.
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