W;t by Margaret Edson is the current in house production at Nottingham New Theatre, and it is, in my opinion, an absolute triumph. The play is an incredibly raw and tender piece of theatre that you must witness if you have the chance, but I’ll give you a warning – you will most definitely cry.

Vivian Bearing PHD (Lois Baglin) is a woman completely dedicated to academia, with her speciality being in metaphysical poetry and the holy sonnets of John Donne. However, even such an elevated, seemingly untouchable life can deteriorate.

Bearing has Stage 4 ovarian cancer. She agrees to undergo an experimental and aggressive form of chemotherapy for the research purposes of Doctors Jason Posner (Bertie Beeching) and Harvey Kelekian (Joe Hincks.) Under such treatment her hair has fallen out, and her body is increasingly fading, but her passion for her work takes far longer to waver under the pressure of illness.

“the sense of pace and level of emotions were maintained throughout”

It is difficult to fathom that this production was not only was performed by students, but directed and produced also. The intense one act nature meant that there was no interval or break for the actors, yet the sense of pace and level of emotions were maintained throughout.

Lois Baglin as Dr Bearing was the essential component with a constant stage presence and a vast amount of complex dialogue, which was delivered with conviction and dexterity. Her performance was outstanding from her energetic “hey how are you feeling today?”, at the play’s opening, to the almost inaudible whisper of the same line at the end.

“Gigi George as Bearing’s nurse Susie Monahan gave a poignant performance”

Gigi George as Bearing’s nurse Susie Monahan gave a poignant performance in the kindness she shows Vivian and the connection that develops between them, which enables Vivian to finally experience the compassion she has craved. The supporting protagonists were acted well, although some of the American accents were more audible than others. On the whole however, the rest of the cast supported Baglin’s role effectively.

“Resuscitation was met with flashing lights bringing the room in to blinding whiteness”

The use of lighting wholly complimented the action on stage in its simplicity portraying something so intricate. Darkness with a single beam moving across Vivian presented numerous scans and treatments and their subsequent effect on her entire body. Resuscitation was met with flashing lights bringing the room in to blinding whiteness, then rapidly encompassing it in complete darkness whilst her life is placed into the control of a machine.

“Her possession of the projection remote heightens her determination to retain control of her life”

Vivian Bearing’s complete resilience to give up what she loves in the face of her suffering is exemplified in this production in her giving a lecture to the audience aided by the projection of a John Donne sonnet onto the stage. Her possession of the projection remote heightens her determination to retain control of her life in the face of such chaos.

However, the calls of her nurse for another round of chemotherapy and the handing back of this remote marks the beginning of her acceptance of her deterioration; shutting off the projection of Donne and thus turning off an element of herself.

“The projection of the Donne poem onto the stage floor was an incredibly important moment”

It is hard to dissect any sort of criticism from this production. Yet, some of the opening lines were slightly inaudible whilst a drip was noisily dragged around the stage.  Furthermore, the projection of the Donne poem onto the stage floor was an incredibly important moment in the development of Vivian, but sitting in the second row meant that it was difficult to see this projection. Therefore although it was acted well, an element of this instant was lost to some members of the audience.

“‘W;t is not a play about cancer. W;t is a play about someone who happens to have cancer'”

Overall, W;t was a poignant exploration of the effects illness and deterioration has, even on those may who seem distant and untouchable.

As director Will Berrington states “W;t is not a play about cancer. W;t is a play about someone who happens to have cancer, and that person’s relationship with that which we shall all inevitably face- our own death.” This message was clear throughout the production and was almost faultless.

9/10 – Ummissable, almost perfect.

Anna Watson

Image courtesy of the Nottingham New Theatre

‘W;t’ is running at the Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 3rd December. For more information and where to find tickets see here

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