Unity’s Stages a triumph — on a lonely stage

'Playful, poignant and packed with potential'

'Playful, poignant and packed with potential'

Stages: Bryony Shackell (Anne); Penny Skyrme (Pamela); Tammy Chaffey (Chris); Monique McLeod (Jenny) — Towpath.

Playful, poignant and packed with potential, Unity Theatre’s latest offering considers a pertinent theme through three unique perspectives. The three one-act plays that make up Stages don’t so much explore “different” stages of life, rather they consider one “stage” through three different perspectives.

The stage is loss and abandonment and the players are: an unlikely troop of abandoned misfits in Towpath (play one), a disagreeable trio of maternity ward patients in Whether I Fall (play two), and a neglected young girl who finds her tribe amongst her nannies, in Manaaki Mokopuna (play three).

The first two groups are united through happenstance.

A chance encounter in a park and a forced meeting in a maternity ward bring the all-female casts of Towpath and Whether I Fall together in their respective plays — achieved with significantly more believability in writer-director Jackie Davis’ Whether I Fall, a reflection of the high quality of her debut script against Robert Iles, the established UK playwright behind Towpath.

A light-hearted romp, Towpath introduces Stages and its running theme in a quaint and digestible fashion. Bryony Shackell holds the stage with an engaging presence as a believable homeless Anne. The strong physical acting of Penny Skyrme as Pamela the fisherwoman is also noteworthy.

Whether I Fall, which discusses the loss of an infant during childbirth, is uncensored and at times uncomfortable. But this is the triumph of both Davis’ honest and humane script and its interpretation by an ensemble of talented actresses. Both Silke Steffen and Beth Morton are compelling in their character interpretations.

Manaaki Mokopuna, the third play, delivers in sack-loads (of potatoes, to be precise). A devised work from director Steph Barnett and the four-strong cast, it follows the unfortunate story of a young Maori girl who finds herself in a cold, mechanical social services system.

From the start it’s clear that the third act will challenge traditional theatre norms. Playing the three dedicated Nannies, Dale Ferris, Quannah Nickerson and Toni Rangi deliver an authentic and at-times cheeky performance that charms the audience into bemused laughter.

Overall, Stages is a unique blend of three very distinct plays strung loosely together by the recurrent theme of abandonment. While most characters have a story of loss, the real issue seems to be loneliness — a shared feeling that cajoles the unlikely characters together.

In an age where humans increasingly live alone, work alone and stay single, it is an important theme. A global “epidemic” of loneliness has been spotlighted as the next big public health issue, on par with obesity and substance abuse, by numerous scientific publications over the past two years.

Delving into this issue in three entertaining and mostly relatable scenarios makes Stages both pertinent and approachable.

Playful, poignant and packed with potential, Unity Theatre’s latest offering considers a pertinent theme through three unique perspectives. The three one-act plays that make up Stages don’t so much explore “different” stages of life, rather they consider one “stage” through three different perspectives.

The stage is loss and abandonment and the players are: an unlikely troop of abandoned misfits in Towpath (play one), a disagreeable trio of maternity ward patients in Whether I Fall (play two), and a neglected young girl who finds her tribe amongst her nannies, in Manaaki Mokopuna (play three).

The first two groups are united through happenstance.

A chance encounter in a park and a forced meeting in a maternity ward bring the all-female casts of Towpath and Whether I Fall together in their respective plays — achieved with significantly more believability in writer-director Jackie Davis’ Whether I Fall, a reflection of the high quality of her debut script against Robert Iles, the established UK playwright behind Towpath.

A light-hearted romp, Towpath introduces Stages and its running theme in a quaint and digestible fashion. Bryony Shackell holds the stage with an engaging presence as a believable homeless Anne. The strong physical acting of Penny Skyrme as Pamela the fisherwoman is also noteworthy.

Whether I Fall, which discusses the loss of an infant during childbirth, is uncensored and at times uncomfortable. But this is the triumph of both Davis’ honest and humane script and its interpretation by an ensemble of talented actresses. Both Silke Steffen and Beth Morton are compelling in their character interpretations.

Manaaki Mokopuna, the third play, delivers in sack-loads (of potatoes, to be precise). A devised work from director Steph Barnett and the four-strong cast, it follows the unfortunate story of a young Maori girl who finds herself in a cold, mechanical social services system.

From the start it’s clear that the third act will challenge traditional theatre norms. Playing the three dedicated Nannies, Dale Ferris, Quannah Nickerson and Toni Rangi deliver an authentic and at-times cheeky performance that charms the audience into bemused laughter.

Overall, Stages is a unique blend of three very distinct plays strung loosely together by the recurrent theme of abandonment. While most characters have a story of loss, the real issue seems to be loneliness — a shared feeling that cajoles the unlikely characters together.

In an age where humans increasingly live alone, work alone and stay single, it is an important theme. A global “epidemic” of loneliness has been spotlighted as the next big public health issue, on par with obesity and substance abuse, by numerous scientific publications over the past two years.

Delving into this issue in three entertaining and mostly relatable scenarios makes Stages both pertinent and approachable.

Stages is on at Unity Theatre’s black-box theatre (209 Ormond Road) today and tomorrow (3pm), and next week, Tuesday to Friday (7.30pm) and Saturday 13 August (3pm). Tickets at Stephen Jones Photography.

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