London Preview: 27th Jul 2017 Theatre 503
Edinburgh Dates: 2nd Aug 2017 – 28th Aug 2017
Pleasance Below – Pleasance Courtyard
Suitable for ages 14 and above
“We’re all going to die, Ollie” “That’s what old people do”
Alan… starts with a bang, “surprise!”, but when Alan won’t come downstairs, Daisy and mycologist boyfriend Christian must step up to the plate of responsibility. Daisy shoulders caring for her father whilst younger brother Ollie plays away and Christian prunes the roses, but when Ollie brings a new arrival to the doorstep, family life goes from bad to barking.
Alan… is an open, honest portrayal of imperfect family relationships, imperfect partners… and a dog. The burden of responsibility, torn between life, love, careers and care is exposed in the most blackly comic of ways; the madness of mundane life captured in tender performances and slick shifts between natural and physical theatre styles.
Alan… embodies the tragic but nonetheless true fact that if we don’t laugh at life, we’ll cry. I defy Edinburgh audiences not to both laugh and cry, as I did, on its first pre-Edinburgh preview at Theatre 503 last night.
Unconventional family relationships can be challenging to capture, but the five-strong cast render the grappling and tender moments of the five under Alan’s roof with clarity and gut-wrenching honesty. Although this is their first public show together, the cast and creatives have spent time working and training at Central where they graduated in 2015. Not long after, their company Mad Like Roar claimed the winning spot on the New Diorama Theatre’s Emerging Graduate Companies Programme. The time they have spent together devising and developing clearly shows, and they gel onstage with the bond of a company that has many more seasons under their belt.
The wide eyed and tight-lipped frustration of Sophie Dessauer’s Daisy is painfully relatable to any older siblings or matriarchal daughters out there. Her feelings are vented with near hysterical urgency at her younger brother Ollie, but she nurtures an even darker side. Jamie Chandler captures Ollie’s transitions from frustrated child to fraught banker with startling sensitivity, the angst just drips off him. Daisy and Ollie’s family squabbles jostle with their adult responsibilities, making the siblings ages deliberately debatable. Do we ever grow into maturity or just learn to appear like it? It’s a quandary the boomerang generation will certainly find relatable.
Christian, Daisy’s hapless boyfriend who seems to know more about plants than people, is brought to life with comic panache by Abe Buckoke. How is a man life a fungus? You might be surprised at Christian’s answer, delivered with a devious deadpan and a twinkle in his eye. Rachel-Leah Hosker holds it all together as sweet and over-sensitive carer Becca. Her giggles are a sprinkling of light relief, her words a comfort “you have got so much” she reminds the fraught family.
As for the dog, his appearance remains to be seen… A decision wisely taken by directors Sam Hardie and Lucas Button, no doubt.
The set and props have, almost certainly, been intentionally minimised to enable a smooth transition to Edinburgh. A set consisting of a few carboard boxes, bunting and some party hats does not hinder the storytelling, nether the less, it would be touching to see some of Alan’s prized greenery sprout from the black box space.
At the heart of Alan… is the thinly veiled truth that we cannot have it all. We cannot be in all places at once, we are forced to make tough calls, nature takes its course, life comes to an end, and we cannot control it – just look on with glassy eyes, and try to laugh.