How Is Uncle John?
On Friday 24th June I went along to the first reading of a new play by Sally Lewis. It had been advertised as Being Hope but has been re-titled How Is Uncle John? during its evolution process.
Directed by Ben Mills (part of the team I’d worked with on our I Am Jane project), this was a one-woman play of breathtaking scope, taking inspiration from women who have been trafficked into the sex market and slavery.
I arrived early and watched the audience gather. The room was set up with chairs in a circle, to give a real impression of inclusivity of performance in the round, or even actually being part of a rehearsal space. This worked really well to form an intimate space, with us close to the sole actor, and able to see close up how she changed her body language as different voices came through.
This was a read-through, not staged, so she was seated throughout and read her lines from a script, with Ben reading the stage directions at appropriate moments. I think obviously the nuances of different characters will come out more clearly when the full production is staged, with different lighting effects and movement. Even so, this was a powerful narrative of coercive power and corresponding powerlessness.
Ben is taking the play to the Edinburgh Festival in its finished state, this performance was a crucial stage for his production to go through, being as it was the first time it had been performed in any version to a live audience.
I am convinced this production will enjoy huge success in Edinburgh. It is a play dealing with urgent, important and disturbing subjects: ones we need reminding of.
Isabel Rogers, 24th June 2016