The Sherman Theatre must be exhausted by its own pace. There must be a magic spell cast over their ability to get co-productions right. How My Light Is Spent by Alan Harris is the latest offing.
A co-production between the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester; the Sherman; and Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, there is a honed rawness to this performance. How My Light Is Spent, winner of the 2015 Bruntwood Prize is brought to life by director Liz Stephenson. Creating the script through two actors, there is an understated acknowledgement of the challenge for which this production triumphs. Alexandria Riley and Rhodri Meller create an array of characters in bringing the story of Kitty and Jimmy to life.
Kitty is a phone sex worker, who counts Jimmy as one of her regulars.
Jimmy calls Kitty every Wednesday evening, whilst his mum is at the Salvation Army.
Jimmy stays on the call for precisely nine minutes, the minimum call duration.
Kitty lives in the granny flat of a topiary enthusiast.
Jimmy, at 36, works at Newport’s only drive-though doughnut restaurant.
I think there were some women from Newport behind me in the audience, who were completely with the detail in Jimmy’s monologues:
“Into town and as he walked down Church Street it was quiet.
Left past the Riverfront and up Skinner Street-“
You could feel people in the audience taking on Jimmy’s route, it wasn’t essential. We all know our own paths, but it made the performance more endearing.
And this is what shines as the talent in Alan Harris’s writing. The absolute ability to relate.
And the formation of laughter.
The seemingly uncomfortable laughter at first, into a completely relaxed enjoyment.
You could almost feel the audience heart-rate depreciate, as stresses became forgotten within Jimmy and Kitty’s story.Alexandria Riley and Rhodri Meilir demonstrate their talent in the medley of characters brought to the stage.
From Mallory, Jimmy’s 17 year-old daughter – to Kitty – to Jimmy’s mum, Alexandria brings the physicality of the ages to each character.
Rhodri takes on a somewhat greater challenge of presenting a five foot something ‘Stevo’. The choice of two actors almost made the characters more endearing, and built the emotional commitment to wanting to see Jimmy and Kitty succeed.
There is a rapport between the two but not only absorbs but leaves you agog. There is a pace created which leaves you breathless and holding your breath, there is a comic timing which leaves everything for the audience to absorb. And there is a beauty – a reality – in the relationships created for each person making up this canvas of characters.
Whilst the overt tale might be of two misfits coming together, there is so much underpinning the story. Of zero-hour contracts, bouncers at job centres, decisions of work or study, loneliness, lone parenting, and depression.
Jimmy’s disappearing body is a metaphor within the play which seeming pronounces the self-fulfilling prophecy which is now an all-too-common reality.
How My Light Is Spent is a wonderfully light production. The laughter created ensures the themes are absorbed rather than the feeling of being hit by a sledgehammer. Whilst the ending feels a little cinema-esque, a feeling of Hollywood in Newport simply cements the magic.
Disclosure: I was invited to the performance for the purpose of this review. All opinions and words contained are my own.