Writer: Michael Mclean
Director: Amelia Sears
Reviewer: Sophia Moss
Years Of Sunlight is a dark, depressing and yet impressively human tale of friendship and addiction set in the fittingly bleak scouser town of Skelmersdale. The play begins when Paul (Mark Rice-Oxley) arrives back at his childhood home after the death of his former best friend.
It opens with a man, mid-30s, glaring at the audience in total silence. This silence lasts so long the audience starts to wonder if the actor has simply forgotten his lines, but then we realise that uncomfortable silence is going to be a running theme throughout this play. Dramatic silence is slightly overused during Years Of Sunlight, but it does accurately emphasise the tension, awkwardness and inability of these characters to truly express themselves.
Years Of Sunlight takes place on a small, fairly bland stage, which features virtually no set design. This may sound like a disadvantage but the bland surroundings are very fitting for a play that is set in a bleak concrete world. The minimal setting also manages to reinforce the bleak nature of this story and makes the title seem rather ironic. The set does not change throughout the play, but the actors should be commended on their ability to convince the audience that it had transformed into an art gallery, a garden and a cold street on New Year’s Eve.
The audience will find it easy to visualise Skelmserdale because we have all seen those 1960s tower blocks, once intended as Utopian futuristic villages. which are now rife with teenage gangs, and it is easy to believe that this story is somewhat based on reality.
Towards the end of Years Of Sunlight, the audience is shown footage from the original Skelmmserdale when it was first conceived and we see children who could very well be Paul and Emlyn, as if to suggest that these characters are real people.
One of the striking things about this play is that the audience initially feels sympathy for Emlyn, the dead friend, and anger at Paul. It is commendable that writer Michael Mclean didn’t just set out to tell a straightforward story about how drug addicts are bad people; he shows how seemingly isolated incidents throughout a 30 year period have resulted in tragedy, and there is always a moment in these flashbacks where someone could have done something differently and changed what the audience already knows is going to happen.
Runs until 18 February 2017 | Image: Alex Harvey-Brown