Review: Notes to Future Self; Birmingham Repertory Theatre; New Wolsey Theatre, March 16

I KEEP reading, and re-reading the programme for this play, and nowhere does it say “we hope you brought a hankie, you’ll need it.”

Never usually one to have a hankie in my pocket, I joined much of the rest of the audience in sniffing and hiding my tears as this wonderful production drew to a close.

But I have jumped to the end too soon, this play by Lucy Caldwell isn’t all doom and gloom, it’s also oddly calming and reassuring.

Thirteen-year-old Sophie is dying from terminal cancer - she knows she is and there’s nothing anyone can do. Sophie’s mother Judy is a new age hippie who has spent most of her life taking her Sophie and her elder sister, Calliope, from one commune to another around the world.

But Sophie’s illness has forced the trio to return to the UK and live with Judy’s straight-laced mother, Daphne.

Narrated entirely by Sophie, played simply superbly by Imogen Doel, the play sees the four women battle to accept the impending loss of a daughter, sister, grand-daughter.

In doing so, fractured relationships are healed, new understandings are found and hidden reserves of strength found where there had previously been none.

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Sophie tells the story to her ‘future self’ - the one she hopes to become in the next life, the one that will live to be old, and have children and fall in love and die when the time is right.

You could say this was something of a slow-burner - at first, I wasn’t convinced about this quartet, but before I knew it, I had joined Calliope in wishing for a miracle, praying for Sophie to survive.

As the elder of the sisters, Jayne Wisener gave Calliope the perfect combination of fellow child and protecting sibling. Amanda Ryan’s Judy was full of angst, worry, fear anger and love. The battle she played out with her own mother whilst trying to be an adult for her own children was utterly real. As Daphne, Jane Lowe brought a calm and quiet confidence with her, the wise matriarch in both part and performance.

Helen Johns