Is there a relationship more testing than that between a parent and their child? What if a medley of mental disorders was thrown in the mix? Award-winning playwright, Kendall Feaver, explores this dynamic with such delicacy in her play ‘The Almighty Sometimes’, which is currently being performed at the Royal Exchange Theatre (9th Feb - 24th Feb), you almost do not realise just how deep you have fallen into this heartbreakingly powerful story until it is too late.
The press night performance for ‘The Almighty Sometimes’ happened to fall on Valentine’s Day and it was refreshing to witness the love between a mother and daughter being questioned in a manner that made it incredibly easy to see why the play won Feaver a judges award for the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting in 2015. Under Katy Rudd’s brilliant direction, ‘The Almighty Sometimes’ deftly reels you in towards the centre of the brewing chaos of its four main characters lives using relatable, awkwardly funny moments and earnest conversations to wrap you firmly round the finger of a girl called Anna who is coming of age and simply wants to be free.
Norah Lopez Holden’s (Ghost, HOME) take on 18 year old Anna is completely mesmerising; she talks and moves with so much palpable, frenzied energy, one cannot help but be drawn in by her performance. And matching her in every way is Julie Hesmondhalgh (Coronation Street) as Anna’s over-protective mother, Renee; Sharon Duncan-Brewster (A Streetcar Name Desire, the Royal Exchange) as Vivienne, an ambitious child psychologist and; Mike Noble (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, National Theatre) as a care-free friend of Anna’s called Oliver. Using just these four characters, Feaver discusses the nuances of boundaries when it comes to relationships, mental health and attachment by honing in on our everyday, basic need to connect, grow and know our true selves without forgetting the importance and power of humour.
By the end of the show I could scarcely believe that only the four actors criss-crossed around this beautiful hexagonal stage designed by Rosanna Vize which I found exuded a sense of wonder, reflection and limitation. The minimal set subtly invites the audience to engage with their imagination with gentle coaxing by the lighting and sound design done by Lucy Carter and Giles Thomas respectively, making it all the more easy to join Anna as she spirals in and out of her normal. And as the characters move closer towards the heart of the both stage and story, the light ebbs and flows from cool blue tones to a very warm red whilst a buzzing electrical hum grows louder and softer giving but a glimpse into a Anna's current state of mind.
'The Almighty Sometimes' opens the door to a very important conversation concerning mental health in such an inclusive way, it is unlikely one will regret seeing it judging by the multiple times the audience laughed throughout the show and the spirited applause afterwards. The show is running until the 24th of February so if this sounds like something you would like to see, you can book your tickets here.