Seemingly uncomplicated, Sarah, who is living at home, is used to having an arm’s length relationship with her mum, Helen. She even accepts her mum’s decision to give her bedroom over solely to the new cat. But when faced with the prospect of finding somewhere else to live, Sarah finds herself in a spiralling catalogue of events that turn her life into a misery.
New Live Theatre, Manchester Hub Drama and No Egos Theatre Productions brings the premiere of SARAH to the Lowry for 2020, following their sold-out production of ‘The Betting Shop’ in 2019. ‘SARAH’ is a brand-new play by Writer and Director Stevie Helps, of the critically acclaimed play, ‘Rachel’.
The play highlights the importance of not only talking to one another and making time for those you love, but actively hearing them too. One character expresses the sentiment in Act 3 – that it’s such a loss to wait until you are dying to explain your previous actions to people you love.
There are many secrets to unearth and unfold in this production, mostly borne out of the inability to share worries, anxiety and anxieties, flaws and traits. The play reflects on how easy it is to seamlessly become the victim, to even find a life behind bars preferable to a domestic prison where never ending physical and emotional abuse becomes the norm.
Writer/Producer/Director Helps is known to overlay a multitude of genres and technical styles, from naturalism to comedy to physical theatre to melodrama and even satire to push theatrical boundaries. This production is certainly boundary blurring, and while we learn why the male characters behave as they do, the female characters are the ones to suffer and seek excuses for their abuser’s actions. With strong portrayals from all the cast, the live singer, Kat Rawling, deserves special credit and links the plot exceptionally well as, certainly, in Act 3 when the plot takes an unexpected turn into a form of ‘who done it?’
Helps’ writing often has serious underlying dark tones. His production offers both commercial and artistic threads woven into stylistic experiments intended to introduce theatre to a wider audience. It seems to have worked because this was a sell-out production, however perhaps with so many layers in this production, certain of the more abstract threads might be lost on some.
SARAH is no self help guide; in parts it is disquieting but highlights the significance and need of a deeper level of communication between loved ones before it’s too late.★ ★ ★
SARAH by Stevie Helps was at The Lowry, Salford Quays on 15 January 2020.