I was excited to be finally checking out Alphabetti Theatre‘s new venue on St James Boulevard after unfortunately not visiting the old venue for a while (it must have been four or five months). It didn’t disappoint! I love the bar, the plethora of books, even the makeshift loos! I’d read good things about Overdue, written by Arabella Arnott and directed by Matt Jamie, but I purposefully didn’t read too much (it clouds my judgment when reviewing). I read that Alphabetti’s Artistic Director Ali Pritchard said, “after hearing Overdue at a reading, I enjoyed it so much that I decided to build a new theatre for it to open.” High praise indeed!
Arnott’s work is well-known for being witty and insightful, adjectives which certainly apply to Overdue. The stage is split between a living room and a park bench, and you’re instantly pulled into the day to day relationship issues of Beth (Rosie Stancliffe) and John (Christopher Price), who are struggling to communicate. Beth is wound up, a teacher just starting the summer holidays but can’t seem to leave her work alone. John is a nice enough guy, who tries to get Beth to loosen up a bit and relax, but she can’t. At first you think it might be a work thing, but as the story moves on, you realise that there are more complicated issues lurking below the surface. During the opening scenes I felt like I was a fly on the wall in a typical relationship, sometimes it was actually uncomfortable to watch because it was so realistic and exactly the types of petty rows most people have with their significant others. Luckily there’s enough humour peppered throughout the script to keep things from getting too dark.
|Christopher Price as John, Rosie Stancliffe as Beth, Benjamin Michael Smith as Jack and Skyla Pearce as Izzy
Beth needs space and air so she starts going to the local park, where she meets Izzy (Skyla Pearce), a fifteen year old who’s just had a baby. Beth’s body language is enough to tell you that her issues are baby-related, and Izzy quickly notices that she isn’t really a baby person. Rosie Stancliffe manages to get across the pain she’s feeling at just being around a small person. After getting off on the wrong foot, Beth bumps into Izzy on other occasions, and they get to know each other better (I felt myself slowly exhale watching Beth soften, I’m sure I was holding my breath). On her mini escape walks, she also bumps into Jack, a teenager in a hoodie who lifts her mood but seems too wise for his age and seems to know too much.
I don’t want to give too much away and ruin it, but with about twenty minutes to go I couldn’t stop the tears from running down my face. I didn’t want to brush them away in case anyone saw the state I was in, so I just let them fall. If you’ve ever struggled to come to terms with past events and had difficulty with past fears affecting your present, I defy you not to get emotional. Rosie Stancliffe is so believable and real as Beth, when you start to realise why she’s acting the way she is, it makes complete sense. This was one of those situations where you feel inspired to give acting a go, she made it look easy (when quite clearly it wasn’t). Christopher Price plays the frustrated husband perfectly, he can’t seem to do right for doing wrong and you feel genuinely sorry for him when he gets pushed away. Skyla Pearce totally nails it as teen mum Izzy, and Benjamin Michael Smith is extremely watchable as the mysterious Jack (it’s hard to believe that both are making their professional stage debuts in Overdue).
At the heart of the play is an issue that I haven’t come to terms with myself, and I don’t let myself think about. Seeing this production without fully realising the subject matter was akin to a sign for me to forgive myself, let go and move on. It was a powerful reminder not to allow the past to cast a shadow over the present. When Jack tells Beth that she’s allowed to be happy (or words to that effect) that hit me hard. Often we don’t realise that we’re blocking our own happiness, or using past pain as a defence mechanism. Luckily the outcome is positive and hopeful, but I’m damn sure I wasn’t the only one quietly falling apart in the theatre last night. A total triumph.
★★★★★ A gritty, moving, mesmerising insight into relationships, coming to terms with the past and moving on.
Don’t miss Overdue at the Alphabetti Theatre Newcastle until Saturday 16th September. Tickets are £9 full price, £7 concessions.To book click here
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