Tuesday 10th July 2018
There are some stage productions which whisk the audience off into a fantasy land of escapism, bringing you back to the real world with a jolt after the final curtain. Wish List by Katherine Soper is not one of these productions. In CTW’s latest offering, one is forced to face the dull, relentless and often stressful reality of daily life for many people in 21st century Britain. At the heart of Soper’s sharp script lie the injustices in modern employment practices and the benefits system. However, before you start manning the barricades and reaching for your red flag, it also shows the power of the human spirit to make the best of the life which they have been dealt.
Strong stuff for a summer evening, which is handled competently by the four young cast members with some clever direction and visual aids.
Anastasia Spence is believable as Tamsin, juggling a dead end zero hours contract packing job and the care of her mentally ill brother after the death of their mother.
Max Taylor Saunders puts in a physically arresting performance as Luke, the student for whom the warehouse is just a fill-in before going to college.
Meg Rowsell has to be commended for the way she shows Petra’s humanity emerge from the emotionless, automated confines that she is working under as Tamsin and Luke’s supervisor.
The stand out performance, however, is given by Alexander Bloom as Tamsin’s brother, Dean who seems to capture the resignation and frustration of someone living with an OCD type condition perfectly. One suspects that a lot of research has gone into ensuring the accurate portrayal of this role.
Wish List is not an easy watch and that owes as much to the heartfelt performances as the social iniquities highlighted in Soper’s script. You may not want to click on another online order again. However, thoughtful direction allows the play to also be seen for its theatrical merits. Spence and Saunders’ mimed packing movements allows the audience to visualise the bleak automated nature of their work in the warehouse, with barely a prop in sight. These relentless, repetitive movements are also mirrored in Dean’s ritualistic tapping and obsessing with his hair gel.
A large television screen reminds the workers of their targets but also denotes scene changes. This is particularly poignant as we witness the human side of Tamsin and Luke in the pub together when they manage to get some time off. A powerful rendition of Meatloaf’s “I’ll do anything for love” shows that there is more to Tamsin than packing and benefit form filling and allows Spence to demonstrate a competent singing voice.
Wish List raises more questions than it answers. Nobody’s wish is fulfilled at the end of the play. The somewhat abrupt open ending, however, seems fitting. This is a play about real lives and real lives invariably don’t have neat outcomes. One is left with a glimmer of hope, however, that whatever befalls these characters (as with us all) they will always still have the capacity to love, laugh, hope , dream and wish. This production is the amateur premiere of Wish List. The cast and crew have plenty to be proud of here. The powers that be in our modern unjust society, may not.