Cancel The Sunshine – The Hope Theatre

Cancel The Sunshine – The Hope Theatre

★★★★★

Review by Sarah Tinsley 

In the middle of the stage is a bed. A dressing table to one side. Littered with makeup, bottles, used cotton wool pads, clothes all over the chair. A hectic, busy young woman is in the middle of another hectic day in London. But, like many people, she’s painting over the cracks to get through the day.

First of all, my congratulations to Maya Thomas. She veers from euphoric to bereft, simpering to furious, never missing a beat. The dialogue is wordy and poetic, so lyrical it needs to be timed, the rhythm of it just as important as the words. And she performs it magnificently. Carrying us with her, from her intimate bedroom to the scenes of ‘fun’ with friends, the annoying friends at the office, where she takes up both sides of the dialogue, and the doctor’s when she finally tries to seek help for the dark thoughts that just won’t abate, no matter how loudly she tells them to go away. I wasn’t the only person in the audience to be wiping away tears, and the entire audience stood at the end, to acknowledge her hypnotic performance.

The writing is very well conceived. Through Chantelle Dusette’s lyrical prose, we flit about through different scenarios, where the main character imagines conversations with others, delves into her past and repeats the same ideas to herself. It starts off quite light-hearted, the audience laughing at themselves as they recognise their own neuroses, spoken out loud. As the play progresses, she lets the barriers fall away and admits to us, and herself, that she isn’t really ‘fine.’ It also offers a beautiful insight into the female psyche – the obsession with looks, the worry about weight, the all-too-present likelihood of shifting blame to yourself. The fact that she remains anonymous is important. That namelessness means she can speak for everyone, become a symbol of something bigger.

And how the emotion swoops. From laughing at ourselves and our obsession with creating a perfect online persona, to the dark times at the bottom of the bottle, to the end of the night when there’s nowhere to go but we just want one more drink, one more friend to tell us we’re ok. It got to feeling rather claustrophobic and uncomfortable at times, the woman in the bed screaming her pain at us, while the audience became the awkward commuter on the tube that watches and peeks and doesn’t really know what to say or to think.

The key message is so important. That depression, or not coping, or anxiety, or whatever you want to call it, are real. We can’t simply brush these things off, think we’re going through a ‘bad patch.’ The stigma around mental health issues is still all too pervasive, and the crippling embarrassment at admitting a problem is there, or seeking help, is a global, but also a very British problem. Add to that the limited means available through an under-funded NHS that just can’t give her the help she needs. Through plays like this, people will be taken into a very personal and powerful world, but they will also have a conversation about mental health. The sooner we openly acknowledge and talk about these things, the less people will be left under the covers in their pyjamas, congratulating themselves on making it to Monday. A powerful, important play.

Cancel The Sunshine – The Hope Theatre

★★★★★

Review by Sarah Tinsley

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