Wish List

Wish List, winner of the 2015 Bruntwood Prize and written by Katherine Soper, follows Tamsin, trapped between an employer that wants 100% efficient human robots, and a brother that needs her care, and whom the state is letting slip through the cracks.  Zero hours contracts are a reality for almost a million people, and a play about them is hugely relevant to many people today.  But is this a great play?

I remember at the Awards Ceremony last November, watching the writer talk about her play and thinking, yes, this could be a unique and original voice addressing a subject that matters to a great many people. It turned out to be everything I hoped it would be.

The writing is desperately beautiful.  At times Tamsin is so trapped you feel she is in a prison.  The writing pulls her one way then the next.  She has to take the zero hours job to feed her brother and herself.  But she should be helping him live and cope with the unforgiving benefits system.  She wants to help him but admits that at times she just wants him to ‘snap out of it’.  She falls for a coworker but is torn by the luxury of his choices.  And she doesn’t have time or emotional space to miss her mum; surely the rendition of Meatloaf’s ‘I’d do anything for love ‘ is the saddest and most poignant moment of the play.  A point where she is momentarily living a life she knows she will never have.  In fact none of the humour is truly funny, it all shows her desperate search for meaningful human interaction in an otherwise monotone world.

And Erin Doherty’s performance as Tamsin is stunning.  This play really is about the central character, how her life traps her in every way, and Erin lives the journey with every tiny emotion and expression.  So much so that the best way to watch this play may be to just watch her for the entire 1 hour 45 minutes. Even towards the end when only her brother is on stage, it’s all about her absence.  That’s not to take anything away from the rest of the cast who are superb.  It’s just that they represent everything that traps her and everything that could offer her freedom.  The world of the play revolves around her.

Although visually impressive, the set’s a bit frustrating and we never get the claustrophobic environment, or the time pressure, of the work place.   I suspect this would work better end on, and with the packing station more closely tied to the rhythm of order delivery. But the play flows well from scene to scene.

So, a worthy winner of the Bruntwood Prize, a play very much of our time.  A piece that is at the same time incredibly beautiful and desperately sad.

Photo Jonathan Keenan

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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