Katie Brown reviews Act One’s latest piece of new writing.
While most students are now retreating into exam revision and essays, Act One are still as busy as ever. Not only are they hard at work preparing three productions to take to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (King Lear, Wuthering Heights and The Institute), but they have also just created a brand-new play. Written and directed by English literature student Ben Atterbury, Sunrise is at turns touching and highly entertaining.
Sunrise follows schoolboy Will on the first day of his work experience placement at a care home. Throughout the day he gets to know both the residents and the staff, which teaches him some valuable life lessons and also takes him out of his shell. I was surprised when I looked at my watch after the show and discovered it was only half an hour long as it felt so well-developed. Through this short but very sweet one-act piece, we get to know not only the range of residents and the care-workers but also the sympathies and tensions between them.
On the one hand, Sunrise is very truthful. Sensitive issues like whether to remind someone with Alzheimer’s that a loved one is dead are treated delicately, but also in a factually correct way. There are many touching moments which consider the injustice and tragedy of a parent suffering from dementia, or the loneliness of being forgotten by your children once they’ve put you in a home. But it’s not all bleak, quite the opposite. Sunrise is full of humour. The whole audience was laughing out loud throughout, mainly thanks to the residents who try to keep having fun and show that their life isn’t over just because they’re in a home.
While praise is certainly due to the whole cast and creative team (Mica Jones especially did a great job of ageing the actors through hair and make-up), the success of Sunrise comes down to its impressive ability to capture characters and every-day drama. I particularly enjoyed the interaction between the snooty manager Jenny (Alice Thatcher, who did a brilliant job at being an annoying jobsworth) and the volunteer Monica (played with real sensitivity by Ellen Green). The conflict between the one who is just there to earn money and the other who has an unbreakable emotional link to the home (her mother died there and her father, who suffers from severe dementia is still there) is both an engrossing source of drama and another very true-to-life aspect. I also loved how Will (Lawrence Dixon) evolved through the play. At the beginning, he is overwhelmed by everything and looks like a rabbit caught in the headlights, but he gradually gains confidence and learns to deal with difficult situations and turn them into something positive.[pullquote]Despite dealing with difficult issues, Sunrise is a heart-warming play. [/pullquote]Despite dealing with difficult issues, Sunrise is a heart-warming play. A recurring line in the play is “There are good days and bad days”, and the key message of the play is to make the most of the good. I’d like to think that Sunrise will inspire the almost entirely student based audience to reconsider how they view and treat the elderly, as it shows how much can be gained from opening ourselves up to those who society too often writes off. Following the success of White Crow, Sunrise also once again establishes that, beyond performing existing plays, Act One is a great source of new writing.