Rarely does a play move me so much that it leaves me speechless and welling up both during and afterwards. Rarely does any production impress me so much that I simply cannot find anything negative to say. This play did both and it is one that will stay with me for a long time to come.
Everything about this production was utterly perfect; from the truthful realism and gentle humour of the beautifully crafted words by playwright Katherine Soper, through the imaginative and superb split and yet intermingling set design by Ana Ines Jabares-Pita, to the lighting and sound (Ciaran Cunningham and Giles Thomas respectively) to four unbeatable and honest performances and tight and incredibly well thought-through directing by Matthew Xia. The highs and lows; the quicks and the slows; everything measured to perfection.
I really do not want to give any of the plot away - even a short synopsis would spoil it - and so suffice to write that the story revolves around an orphaned pair of siblings who live together - they are late teens, early twenties - and the sister, the elder of the two looks after her brother who suffers from a nervous condition, (I don't wish to use labels) which makes him obsessively do odd and compulsive rituals with a certain fervent regularity to them. Moreover he hardly ever goes out of the house, and won't speak to or interact with strangers and doesn't respond well to physical contact. He therefore cannot work and so his sister must be the bread-winner for them both. OK, enough! Now go and watch the play to get to know more!
Erin Doherty is the sister Tamsin, and her brother Dean is Joseph Quinn. If these two don't get an Oscar each for these roles then there simply is no justice in the world! Quite simply breathtakingly real and heartbreakingly tender interpretations with every nuance, movement, etc so incredibly well judged. Helping them along in their journey and fight for justice from the DWP (oops.. possible spoiler, sorry!) were no less a pair of actors playing respectively Tamsin's work colleague Luke, Shaquille Ali-Yebuah; and the work's Team Leader, Aleksandar Mikic.
I could use trite superlatives until the cows come home for this play, but instead I simply implore every one of you to go and experience it for yourselves; my words or indeed anyone's words cannot do it justice. It is a hard-hitting subject matter, hard to watch, but highly rewarding too, and it simply tells it the way it is. That is what is so remarkable about this piece.... there in nothing fancy, superfluous or decorative in any of it from the writing to the curtain call; and yet it is simply compelling, difficult, and at times (just the right times to relieve the tension, and just to the right level) there was humour and heart warming gentle and touching moments too.
These performances mark the World Premiere of Wish List, and continues to play at the Royal Exchange Studio Theatre until 15 October. It will then enjoy a short run at The Royal Court Theatre in London in January. Playwright Katherine Soper had up until tonight managed to escape my radar, but I shall be more than certainly looking out for more of her work in future. [Ditto Doherty and Quinn].
Reviewer: Mark Dee
Reviewed: 28th September 2016
North West End Rating: ★★★★★