Writer: Lizzie Nunnery
Director: Gemma Bodinetz
Reviewer: John Roberts
There is certainly something commendable about the Everyman Rep season producing a “state of the times” play, the country is certainly facing some severe problems and none so more than in cities such as Liverpool. So while the idea of The Sum may have come from a place of real care and concern for our country, our city and the issues that many people face, sadly the production just doesn’t bite in the way you long it too.
The relationship between director Gemma Bodinetz and writer Lizzie Nunnery has only grown stronger since their first project nearly ten years ago (Intemperance). These projects have become more ambitious as they tackle issues that are more of the now, than that of the past. However, with The Sum it feels that the focus on “issues” may be the production’s biggest downfall.
Eve Brennan (Laura Dos Santos) is an administrator with a head for numbers, she can make any spreadsheet balance and has indeed done just that for the homeware store Mclasker’s for many years. Brexit, however, has meant the company needs to pull back on its costs and needs to reduce staff hours to facilitate and balance the books. When you then start to add in storylines of immigration, political rallies, relationship break-ups, Alzheimer’s, food banks and indeed selling yourself – The Sum starts to look like a long division, which never really gets resolved.
Lizzie Nunnery has interwoven many songs into the piece but they tend to hold the production back and lack the narrative drive to push the stories on, that’s not to say they aren’t performed well by the cast but the plays structure almost falls into predictability with each actor getting their song after a small issue based vignette. The biggest stumbling block for the production is the stage design – placing your small band in a pit in the very centre of the stage leaves the actors stumbling around the space avoiding a literal “pitfall” and then awkwardly playing their scenes across the space or in distinct corners of the stage.
Dos Santos is strong in the central character of Eve, but the way the character is written we just don’t feel any sympathy towards her or her fight and that can be said for almost every character in The Sum, however strong performances are given from Keddy Sutton as foodbank volunteer Steph who manages to bring what little humour lives in the text to life as does Pauline Daniels as Alzheimer’s suffer Iris. Liam Tobin as Eve’s partner Danny gives a strongly balanced performance of a man in personal and career turmoil, Patrick Brennan is almost unrecognisable from his previous role as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof and makes the lascivious nature of shop owner Alan McClasker really tangible.
It’s hard to know who The Sum is trying to talk to, if it’s meant to challenge perceptions and ask people to make a change then, it needs to have a bigger call to action and focus on one maybe two of these issues, but as it is this is a sum that in its current state is harder to work out than it should be.
Runs until 20 May 2017 | Image: Stephen Vaughan