I have been sort of accidentally missing Spine for months now. Clara Brennan’s one woman show happened to be running up in Edinburgh this summer whilst I was there and it even won itself a couple of awards, so I was sad to miss it. Similarly I had prior commitments when the show had its London press night at the Soho Theatre last week. Thankfully I was offered a chance to see this show last night and I am SO glad I finally got to see this cutting edge piece of theatre.
From the poster; a girl in a wig spray painting a wall (yes, I know, you should never judge a play by the poster…but we all do it) I wasn’t particular inspired to see the show. However in this instance I hold my tail between my legs for being so judgemental as I have to admit that Spine is actually one of the most inspiring pieces of theatre I have seen this year. Clara Brennan cleverly plays on audience prejudices and subverts them, teaching one to dig deep to see the best in people, just like “Glenda” does in the narrative.
Rosie Wyatt is an absolute sensation in her role as Amy. I was filled with admiration at her sense of physical and vocal rhythm. Together Wyatt, Brennan and director Bethany Pitts have worked together to generate a musicality to Rosie’s “chavvy” dialect, which becomes almost score like. Again the concept of subversion is explored here as a seemingly lowbrow accent transcends to a highbrow art form.
Wyatt manages to carry the show for the full 70 minute duration and holds the audiences attention with ease. Her character is expertly written by Brennan and developed by Wyatt, allowing her to demonstrate a plethora of emotions and accompanying tempo rhythms. To say she was watchable would be an understatement!
Alison Neighbour’s designs are extremely clever and self referential; she develops the concept of “spines” on several levels. Spine as a reference to “having some backbone” is a clear notion in the script and Neighbour develops this by dressing Rosie in a top that is cut away to reveal her own spine. Moreover, the concept of “spine” as in the spine of a book is made visually clear as the stage is piled high with books. I also loved the concept of scattering the stage with items referenced in the text such as a tea cup and a bronze plaque; this helped invite the audience into Rosie’s world, making it seem all the more real and relevant.
There was some very subtle but very effective sound and lighting from Jon McLeod, which juxtaposed with Rosie’s upfront nature. I think this juxtaposition, which is also present in the Neighbour’s little contextual scenic nods, is what made this piece so interesting.
For me Spine felt very much like a well layered piece of theatre. What one sees on the surface was not the whole picture and as the audience were invited to dig a little deeper, they were rewarded as they learned that judging a book by its cover (or the state of its “spine”) would be a dim decision indeed.
SEE THIS SHOW! It runs at the Soho Theatre* until Sunday 2nd November, but it should be back in London soon.
* I also just wanted to say that I bloomin’ love the Soho Theatre – it has such a good bar that members of the public (not just theatre goers!) can drink in and prices are