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Stuck With You – GRAEae

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Writer: Jessica Lovett

Director: Lilac Yosiphon

Mixed messages are the subject of Crips without Constraint’s final duologue of the second season, as writer Jessica Lovett examines the gap between two sisters and the lack of communication that keeps them apart. Stuck With You smartly works around the limits of video calling platforms by staging this new duologue on either side of a bathroom door as the protagonists FaceTime one another.

Arguing about privacy, Sarah rattles the bathroom door where sister Abi is changing into her bridesmaid’s dress. An indignant Abi has come home from the big city for the wedding while Sarah feels left behind. But family trauma is at the root of their separation and in one short call, the tension between them comes to a head.

Lovett’s enjoyable 16-minute duologue changes shape as the conversation unfolds, peeling away layers of feeling as Abi and Sarah face their mutual resentment head on in this climatic emotional clash. But Lovett’s work is incredibly subtle moving the sisters through a social awkwardness caused by their long separation and age gap towards bitterness, and eventually a slow thawing as a rapprochement occurs.

In a very short piece, Lovett captures the texture of long relationships and shared family connections in the dialogue that quite naturally weaves between several interrelated topics, drawing parallels between petty anger surrounding the wedding, and much deeper hurts that lead back to parental relationships and the consequences of family politics. Stuck With successfully feels like a snapshot of a much wider story, credibly suggesting these characters have complicated lives before and since.

Lovett suggests the quite different drivers of the two central characters; Abi (Alexandra James) relishes her escape from the family and hopes to make this brief visit painless and as unemotional as possible. She has an aggressive carapace that offers a hard, often sarcastic exterior, but it covers a fear of disappointment and a troubled relationship with her mother that James draws out with skill.

Sarah also has a complicated maternal connection but for slightly different reasons. Sharon Duncan-Brewster gives Sarah a more conciliatory nature, offering support and kindness to her younger sister while slowly revealing some of the pressures that afflict her including the burden of being the eldest and living a seemingly perfect life.

This Crips Without Constraint production is staged as a FaceTime conversation that gives a different perspective to the side-by-side boxes, while the actors occasionally talk towards the door behind them as they try to vent their rage at one another. The piece is supported by audio description that narrates the stage directions with screen cards providing subtitles that make this an accessible performance.

Stuck With You explores the feeling of aimlessness and disconnection that afflicts both Abi and Sarah, using the consequences of a misfortune to highlight the need they have for one another. Lovett has written a small but mighty family drama that packs a punch.

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