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The Light House (Susan Elkin reviews)

The Light House

Alys Williams

Directed by Andrea Heaton

Park90, Park Theatre

Star rating: 4

This engaging, one woman show finds power in tenderness and that’s what makes it both uplifting and hopeful.

We seem to be at sea on a dark stormy night. Ed Heaton’s sound and Matthew Carnazza’s lighting are pretty evocative. And there’s a man overboard. High drama.

Then, gradually, we realise that this is a metaphor for a mental heath crisis in Alys’s beloved, but suicidal boyfriend Nathan who is not actually there but is neatly portrayed by an old fashioned angle poise lamp (set by Emma Williams). There’s no tragic ending. Alys Williams assures us at the outset that “everything’s going to be OK” and it is.

We return to the ship metaphor at intervals throughout the piece and it’s a stroke of genius to get two audience members to echo the “Man overboard” call because it sounds theatrically convincing (or at least it did on press night) as well as stressing that when someone is adrift there’s a network of people and a protocol to return them to dry land. He or she is not alone.

She also enlists audience members to play other small parts such as Nathan when she first meets him and her parents who used to take her rowing. I suspect there were a lot of actors “in” on press night and it all went as smoothly as if it had been rehearsed.

It’s unusual to see a mental health play presented from the point of view of the outsider/carer and that makes this piece particularly effective because while we ache for him, most of us identify with her: desperately and lovingly wanting to help while not really understanding what is happening inside the head of the “sad” person. No wonder there’s a well being practitioner (Noelle Adames) listed among the creatives.

This fine, perceptive, 60 minute play has toured in the north and Midlands before coming to the Park Theatre. I hope very much that it gets revived and that more people get the chance to see it in the future.

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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