So, I make no apology for returning to two series – the Tron’s sonic podcast series, Earwig, and Graeae’s Crips Without Constraints – whose output is being released on a weekly basis.
It’s interesting that at a time when digital TV has moved to a model where every episode of a show is released at the same time, allowing for binge consumption, a lot of theatre series are opting for the weekly podcast model. Drips rather than deluge.
Deferred gratification has considerable merits and it’s the case with these second helpings, vastly different in tone and style, but both proving that theatre is a broad church and one that can happily embrace both social realism in the case of Crip’s Without Constraints’ The Gift and something wilder, dreamier, more elusive in Earwig’s There is Still Something Left to Discover.
In The Gift, neatly written by Leanna Benjamin and sharply directed by Cheryl Martin, Sharon D Clarke and Saida Ahmed play mother and daughter Shirley and Jasmine, who have been forced to keep their physical distance because of the pandemic. That has left disabled Jasmine reliant on her carers. When Shirley calls Jasmine with birthday greetings, Jasmine has news of her own.
Sharon D Clarke and Saida Ahmed in The Gift.
There is a lot going on in this exchange, performed with delicacy by Clarke and Ahmed, which explores the mother’s instinct to protect and make everything alright for their child even when they have grown up, and Jasmine’s need to be independent, even at a time when her dependence on care has been taken advantage of by others in the most shocking way. It’s good too about motherhood and guilt and it comes with a pertinent reminder that for mothers giving up on love is seldom an option. Whatever the circumstances.
Motherhood also figures strongly in Hannah Lavery’s There is Still Something Left to Discover, a piece in which poetry and Slavic fairytales, dreams and nightmares meet head-on and turn shape-shifter as much as Baba Yaga herself. Yaga, sometimes known as Grandma Chickenlegs, is the mythic folk story figure who can be both terrifying witch but also grandmotherly old woman. Perhaps even an earth goddess.
Lavery’s piece, beautifully underscored with original music by Danny Krass and Julia Reidy, is as dense as a thicket of trees in the forest, and it plays on fears of lost children, ageing bodies and maternal roles. It’s exquisitely written, and it refuses to yield up its meanings easily, instead rippling long after its finished, like a stone dropped by a child in a pond.
You can stream all episodes of Earwig via the Tron Theatre here.
And you can watch Greaea's weekly episodes of Crips Without Constraints here.