No Place Like Hope is an honest depiction of a situation faced by many who either have cancer or are close to someone living with the disease. The cast skillfully give life to a script of honesty and love. There is much within this play for people to relate to and acknowledge.
No Place Like Hope is a new play written by Callum Pritchard and currently in its premier season at The Old Red Lion. The play has been supported by a Kickstarter campaign and developed in partnership with Victoria’s Promise, a charity in support of young women with cancer.
The story is about Anna, a young woman dealing with the final stages of cancer. She has no family to support her and is in a hospice while she waits for the end. Into this dire life situation drops an unexpected friendship. A young woman is sent to the hospice to serve community penance for a misdemeanour. Becca brings sunshine into winter.
Pritchard has written a play with warmth and hope. In the first half of the play, the dialogue is snappy with just the right amount of pathos to bring meaning to the relationships. Not surprisingly, the tone of the piece changes as Anna’s death becomes imminent. Unfortunately this change is brought about by an overabundance of words and the play becomes descriptive rather than active.
Claire Corbett is Anna, the patient. Corbett skillfully transitions from an obviously ill woman living on pain medications to the stage of withdrawal from the living. Her character remains believable and endearing throughout.
Becca, the girl who reluctantly cleans the ward to atone for her unlawful act is joyfully played by Holly Donovan. The energy that radiates from Donovan would power the world and the audience loves her from beginning to end. Donovan shines in the fast paced comedic opening scenes and manages the more complex feelings in the longer speeches with assurance.
There is a third member of this cast, Bri (short for Brian) the Healthcare Assistant in charge of the miscreant cleaner and the physical care of Anna, the patient. On the exterior Bri is all about efficiency and the rules and the writing in the script allows for nothing more until the play nears its end. There is then an emotive scene when Bri, played by Max Calandrew, is finally allowed to be caring and a more complex character. Calandrew was seen previously in the title role of Hamlet at Peckham when he was one of three actors playing the character. He was rightly nominated for Best Male Performance in the Offies for that portrayal.
After the painfully drawn out angst of the final scenes there are two moments of physical theatre that are breathtaking for their simplicity and powerful drama. The first is when Bri calmly and efficiently bundles up the bedclothes from the eerily empty hospital bed. This is followed by a musically underscored scene as Becca takes in the finality of the moment and grieves.
Carla Kingham, the director, has crafted a finely timed performance and production and would have been responsible for those beautiful final moments. The production elements of set (Emily Britton), sound (Rachel Murray) and lighting (Ali Hunter) serve the narrative well. A window incorporated in the set design is well used for both action and lighting to enhance the action.
No Place Like Hope is an honest depiction of a situation faced by many who either have cancer or are close to someone living with the disease. It shows that solace is found in someone just being there as much as in open and honest communication.