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Bear with me: Sun Bear @ParkTheatre

If The Light House is an uplifting tale of survival, Sarah Richardson’s Sun Bear gives a contrasting take on this. Sarah plays Katy. We’re introduced to Katy as she runs through a list of pet office peeves with her endlessly perky coworkers, particularly about coworkers stealing her pens. It’s a hilarious opening monologue that would have you wishing you had her as a coworker to help relieve you from the boredom of petty office politics.  But something is not quite right in the perfect petty office, where people work together well. And that is her. And despite her protesting that she is fine, the pet peeves and the outbursts are becoming more frequent. As the piece progresses, maybe the problem lies in a past relationship, where Katy had to be home by a particular hour, not stay out late with office colleagues and not be drunk enough not to answer his calls. Perhaps the perky office colleagues are trying to help, and perhaps Katy is trying to reach out for help. It has simple staging

Death becomes her: A Brief List Of Everyone Who Died @finborough

For a natural process, death is not a topic that comes up naturally for people. We ask how people are doing but expect the response to be “I’m great”, not “I’m not dead yet”. And so for the main character in A Brief List of Everyone Who Died, Graciela has a death issue. Starting with when she was five and found out only after the matter that her parents had her beloved dog euthanised. So Graciela decides that nobody she loves will die from then on. And so this piece becomes a fruitless attempt at how she spends her life trying to avoid death while it is all around her. It’s currently having its world premiere  at the Finborough Theatre.

As the play title suggests, it is a brief list of life moments where death and life intervene for the main character, from the passing of relatives, cancer, suicides, accidents and the loss of parents. Playwright Jacob Marx Rice plots the critical moments of the lives of these characters through their passing or the passing of those around them. However, it’s done with touches of humour and tenderness. Over 90 minutes, the fragments come together as a thoughtful, if at times, emotional journey. 

The cast is particularly engaging as they move between playing family members, lovers and other characters in the life of Graciela. Vivia Font, as Graciela, is lively and engaging as she captures the different life stages of our main character. Siphiwo Mahlentle stands out as two characters - first, her lost best friend, and later her wise adopted son.

Exploring the inevitable stage of life may not be for everyone’s taste. There was even an audience member letting out a death-rattling scene which I initially mistook for being part of the show since members of the cast sit in the audience. However, it is a reflective and thoughtful exploration of life and death. Although it might even be a tad optimistic about the longevity of the characters given current life expectancy rates.

A Brief List of Everyone Who Died is directed by Alex Howarth at the Finborough Theatre until 10 June. Check the website for post show discussions on 3 and 8 June as well.


Photos by Philm

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