Review: Handle with Care “Checked shirts and Rosebud moments’

THIS reviewer fears going to Edinburgh Way in Harlow on a Sunday as it may involve the purchase of stuff. Usually essential, practical stuff but nevertheless, stuff.

Or indeed it is on our way to the tip.

So it seemed somewhat appropriate that on a day when intact this reviewer had been to the tip and thrown away stuff that he travelled to the Lok “n’ Store to review “Handle with Care”.

This is what they call “Immersive theatre” that is to say, you are standing amongst the actors and props as the narrative unfolds. We follow Zoe from 1988 as she says goodbye to her brother as he goes on his travels up to 2016. In between there is a lot of emotional and physical “stuff”.

To begin with, this is superbly acted. For much of the performance we are immersed in the life of fragile Zoe (played with spirit and passion by Amy Dolan ) as she struggles to come to terms with events and struggles to keep hold of her relationships with lovers, husbands, estranged husbands and daughters.

Her life is punctuated, validated, embellished by her relationship with artefacts and mementoes, from shirts to paintings as well as articles such as teasmaids and record players.

The cast and audience travel from storage facility to storage facility as well as speedily following the cast down the corridors. The use of the space and light was essential.

But let us not forget about the dialogue that fizzed along. The proximity of the cast to the audience felt that you were in the midst of a private conversations that made you feel uncomfortable or far too close to aggressive partners.

Whether it was the props, the music, the years pinned on storage units, there was a great economy of narrative here.

There was something terribly sad here. But it is a natural part of life. If you have ever divided up stuff or packed away a loved one’s belongings and made those difficult decisions, then you know where we are coming from. Or just seen the final scene of Citizen Kane perhaps.

High praise to the creative team (Dante or Die) who brought you Handle with Care. But also high praise to the Harlow Playhouse team whose advocacy of challenging theatre, especially through the Pay What You Can scheme is to be applauded.

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