Playwright Rebecca Lister’s main aim with her play 2:20am is to break the silence on suicide. ‘2:20am is not one persons story. It is made up of the stories of many people; people who have worked with me, laughed with me, written with me and most of all trusted me.’ Using real life experiences from participants in writers groups, in-depth interviews and her own experience on losing a family member to suicide, Lister brings us a beautifully powerful new work that goes beyond the loss of a loved one and into the lives of those struggling to understand why.
Lister has written four extremely believable characters who carry the subject with incredible warmth and depth. Emma (Zoe Ellerton-Ashley) a social worker, who has her own experience of loss, runs a writers group to offer support after suicide. Trish (Joanne Davis) the mother-figure of the group, joins after the suicide of her life partner Mandy. Dave (Michael Treloar) at the insistence of his wife, reluctantly joins to gain some direction and clarity after the death of his 16 year old daughter Felicity. And Stella, (Izabella Yena) the angry daughter struggling to comprehend ‘why’ following the loss of her father.
Director Hallie Shellam has assembled a wonderful team of performers to carry these difficult characters. Individually these are terrific actors, but together, as an ensemble, they are outstanding. There is an obvious bond between all four and such clarity in their characterisations that each scene rings true. And there are many terrific moments. Emma reconciling death while balancing the demands of a new born and all that goes with it, is particularly heartbreaking. Stella playing totem tennis, sticking names of people she is hurt by to the ball, hitting out her anger is very powerful. The moment Dave breaks-down in front of his apprentice while listening to Whitney Houston on the radio is both hilarious and gut wrenching. And when Trish and Mandy’s children devise a way to ‘bring their mum back’ by building a special garden, ‘Mandy’s Garden’ at the back of the yard, is incredibly moving. The success of these and all the scenes are a testament to the fine performers.
But the performances would not be as good if it weren’t for the thoughtful and respectful direction that Shellam has provided. Each scene is restrained in its emotion, there is nothing forced, nothing contrived. And Shellam’s use of space is very clever and appropriate to the stark venue – utilising existing doors, stairs and the general space to great effect.
There is an obvious collaboration between writer, director and the creative team as it all works in complete harmony. Megz Evans lighting design is simple yet very effective, sectioning off areas of the stage representing differing time and space – not an easy task in basically a bare community hall. And Darious Kedros’s emotive soundscape is used to great effect – never shadowing but enhancing the performance.
2:20am is important theatre. I could easily see this as a touring show – perhaps regional where suicide prevention is very much needed, or as I said to my +1 leaving the venue – ‘this would make such an impact on film too’.
Thank you to all involved in bringing such a beautifully crafted piece on such a sensitive and often silent subject.