Review: One Under
Image courtesy Graeae
Stanley J Browne as Cyrus
Reece Pantry as Sonny
Shenagh Govan as Nella
Clare-Louise English as Christine
Evlyne Oyedoken as Zoe
Cyrus drives a Tube train.
Sonny jumps in front of it.
Desperate to arrive at the truth of what happened, Cyrus is brought to a troubling possibility: that all routes lead back to him.
Award-winning playwright Winsome Pinnock and acclaimed director Amit Sharma (The Solid Life of Sugar Water, National Theatre) join forces for this deeply powerful drama about searching for meaning in a complex world.
Winsome Pinnock (Leave Taking, Bush Theatre) reimagines her 2005 play about the power of guilt and the quest for atonement.
Graeae are world-renowned for placing D/deaf and disabled artists centre-stage.
This brand new staging of One Under sparks a vital discussion about mental health and invisible disabilities, and features creative captioning and audio description at all performances.
Note: One Under deals with issues and topics which some audience members may find challenging, including depression, paranoia and suicide.
Those of us who live in London are probably more used to delays to services which occur when someone dives under a fast-moving train intending to end their life.
Though many commuters may be irritated by those delays, the human tragedy of a life ended abruptly is always shocking and disturbing.
It also leaves in its wake a whole string of emotions such as bewilderment and guilt, and initiates a series of consequences in the fallout.
As this play by Winsome Pinnock exposes with painful insight, the end of a life heralds the beginning of a search for reasons and explanations as other lives are affected, in particular the driver of the train (that was the vehicle of death) here depicted by Stanley J. Browne playing Cyrus.
It's only a few minutes after the fatality when we meet him talking to another train diver, Mags, who has also suffered a similar event and tells him that "by the law of averages it should have happened to you years ago".
Uncomforted by Mags' assertion that he'll forget about it after some time off, we next find him helping the mother of Sonny (the deceased) searching for answers to the tragedy that has occurred, and later leaping to conclusions that might shoe-horn Sonny into his own life story.
Conflict arises when Sonny's sister recognises Cyrus from the inquest and wants him out of the family's life.
Interspersed between the post-mortem scenes with Cyrus, we find Sonny just prior to his death interacting with a woman from a laundrette, treating her to a night out.
In these scenes we hear hints of reasons for Sonny's suicide - eg paranoia, possible duplicitous dealings with a drugs gang - though we're never offered the finality of complete and detailed clarity about Sonny's motivations and rationale.
In Amit Sharma's sensitively convincing and moving production, the setting is a circular playing area into which the actors flit temporarily and then retreat back into the shadows.
The approach realises a sense of fleeting, indeterminate transience - a kind of ambivalent state moving between timelines and focusing on the differing motivations of the characters who have been thrown together.
A well-directed ensemble of five provide deftly-worked and compelling performances.
Stanley J. Browne's Cyrus is an honest, kindly man desperately wanting answers to an overwhelming event in his life which leads him to delve into his past and guilt, seeking deeper connections that simply don't exist.
Winsome Pinnock's astutely poignant play rightly offers no satisfactory resolution or detailed explanations, simply pointing-up the effects on disparate characters flung together by the devastating initial event.
The denouement, however, does signal a possible answer to one of Cyrus's questions, leaving us with an emotionally unsettling image in the closing moments.
Powerful and intensely thought-provoking drama.
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ActDrop listing for Arcola Theatre
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