Writer: Jessie Cave
Director: Adam Brace
Breaking up is hard to do especially for Jessie Cave who becomes obsessed with hearing all about her ex-boyfriend’s sex life with other women. Like an open sore that won’t heal, Cave tortures herself by imagining Alfie’s new life, resenting his freedom away from her and their two young children and trawling social media for intel. The only thing left to do is write a comedy show about it.
Sunrise was first performed in 2018 and Cave returned to the Soho Theatre to create this filmed version in April 2021 which receives its world premiere via Soho on Demand. Taking confessional stand-up to its limits, Cave is candid about the end of her relationship and its effects on her behaviour, leading to revenge dating, plenty of self-flagellation and even some emotional manipulation to win him back.
What could have been quite a gloomy, even alarming, piece about a highly-strung young woman unable to cope in the aftermath of her breakup becomes a witty story of incompetence and emotional bumbling as Cave authentically describes the stages of her relationship grief and the touching but wacky experiences she had in the subsequent months, many of which focus on her feelings of inadequacy around “power women” in the course of her job.
Scanning social media to find the birthday of the woman Alfie is sleeping with regularly, Cave hilariously completes a compatibility chart that proves they have more of a future than he ever did with the mother of his children – something she also does for herself ahead of a first meeting by searching Instagram for her date’s birthday. And it is the silly, everyday details that make Sunrise so enjoyable, whether it’s feeling upset that the new girlfriend has the same brand of peanut butter or going to Snappy Snaps to print pictures of the children, these familiar reference points build a connection with the audience.
But don’t be fooled by Cave’s demure and girlish appearance because Sunrise is filled with frank and sometimes graphic descriptions of her sex life. Whether she’s competitively having as much sex as possible with the new boyfriend who she’s not that into – even at a Harry Potter convention in Paris – coercing her ex into visiting an STD clinic with her or examining a painful bikini wax reaction, Cave lets us into every complicated and confounding aspect of her world.
Staged in a giant playpen designed by her mum Debbie Cave, who also creates a beautifully quilted backdrop of child-like suns and performed to a single audience member, her sister, Cave also uses two pillows embroidered with the faces of her ex and new boyfriend to form conversations by recreating their voices. It emphasises the effect of this breakup on their young family while giving the show an added visual appeal.
There is an authenticity to Sunrise that makes it so watchable, and while the retelling is (hopefully) heightened for comic effect, Cave’s show treads a fine line between being outrageously funny and recognisably true. Everyone does silly things and goes through a range of conflicting emotions after a break-up and in Sunrise Cave is brutally honest about the hard road to closure.