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Review: Inside

Review: Inside

Review: Inside cover photo on Stagedoor
It’s been quite a theatre week for older women.

First, Mark Ravenhill’s Angela offered a portrait of his mother sliding into dementia, and now the Orange Tree is livestreaming Inside, three short plays in which older women are central, from its Richmond auditorium.

Being inside is something we have all become experts in during the last year. Here, writers Deborah Bruce, Joel Tan and Joe White (whose debut Mayfly I still think about) explore different aspects and impacts of being isolated from the world. Together, these stories pack more of a punch than any of them would individually.

In Bruce’s Guidesky and I, Samantha Spiro plays a middle-aged woman packing up her deceased mother’s Surrey house in the middle of the pandemic. The woman has just fallen victim to a minor internet scam, and it becomes the focus of all the anger she feels about her life, an unspoken self-entombment. Perhaps not since Escaped Alone have we seen quite such “terrible rage” on stage, and Spiro captures both the comedy and the pain. This woman is both a figure of fun but Bruce’s empathetic writing makes her tragic too.

Samantha Spiro in Guidesky And I.

The filming over the three plays sometimes has a distancing effect, as if everything is happening quite far away, and the lighting and sound can both be murky. Still, there is nothing murky about Joel Tan’s When the Daffodils in which the relationship between the elderly Meg (Ishia Bennison) and her carer Samia (Jessica Murrain) is revealed as something complex, maybe sinister. It’s a topical piece tapping into the tensions around the pandemic about shielding because of age and who has sacrificed most to keep each other safe.

More whimsical and yet with an emotional undertow is White’s Ursa Major in which stressed and anxious Jay (Fisayo Akinade), a researcher into dark matter whose wife has recently left him, reluctantly takes Callisto (Sasha Winslow), a woman who says she is “houseless” not “homeless”, back to his flat. There’s a touch of myth (an ex-husband eaten by a bear) and magic in a brief piece which touches on what it means to be good (is a tenner a month to the donkey sanctuary enough?), our terrible need to be touched and seen, and our desperate longing to know that everything will work out okay. It will, won’t it?

Fisayo Akinade and Sasha Winslow in Ursa Major. Photo by Ali Wright.

You can stream Inside online until Sat 27 Mar. Tickets here.

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Lyn Gardner

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