Review: "No Place Like Hope" at The Old Red Lion Theatre
Lesson of the week: there’s nothing wrong with being a little serious. Sometimes.
This week’s show is not our usual sort of thing to cover, but after two smash-hit productions at the Old Red Lion, we couldn’t refuse.
No Place Like Hope follows the burgeoning friendship of Becca – juvenile delinquent sentenced to two week’s community punishment in a local hospice – and Anna, a cancer patient with an aversion to people.
The story, as my plus-one pointed out, is hardly a new one: young rebel meets jaded older person and they both have a positive effect on the other’s life. Still, it was nicely handled – not too overblown or melodramatic.
Written by Callum McGowan, No Place Like Hope was designed to pass the Bechdel Test, and it does – with flying colours. On top of this, it was produced by an entirely female team – from directing, to lighting and sound. It was, however, one of those perfect examples of “women’s theatre” – one where that fact doesn’t even cross your mind. We were just an audience, watching three people bond over the life experiences which join us all, and the fact that this is such a female-led production was an afterthought for me- the icing on the cake.
There were points where the script teetered perilously close to “THIS IS A PLAY” language but, otherwise Callum McGowan’s script is a total triumph – believable, moving, and funny. One or two of Anna’s monologues about death and the nature of living carried on a tad too long for me – but for the most part, the most fundamental topics of human experience were treated with sensitivity and insight.
The actors were wonderful. Quite simply that. All three embodied their roles so well that I would truly struggle to imagine them as being different in real life. Claire Corbett was convincingly world-weary as Anna, Max Calendrew the perfect balance of officious and compassionate as Bri. Holly Donovan, as Becca, was a particular stand-out and managed to bring me to ACTUAL tears on two occasions. (I tried to subtly wick one away with my tongue to avoid the tell-tale face dabbing, but missed and just ended up licking my cheek. I’m so glad theatres are dark.)
Emily Britton’s set was masterfully simple and another pillar of verisimilitude – the furniture, the colours, the lighting – all looked like it had been lifted straight out of a real-life hospice, with only the sloping cutaway walls to remind you otherwise.
Perhaps most importantly of all, the play has partnered with Victoria’s Promise, an inspirational charity set up to help support young women with cancer.
Emotional, real, and raw, No Place Like Hope is on at theOld Red Lion until the 25th November and I cannot urge you strongly enough to give it a go. Bring tissues though. Or, you know, be a little stealthier than I am.