Tuesday, 26 January 2021

REVIEW: Flowers for the Chateaux online at Graeae

Graeae Theatre Company has been producing accessible theatre for many years and its latest offering is a series of short plays written by deaf and disabled writers released weekly over the coming weeks and available to engage with online under the banner Crips without constraints part 2.

Flowers for the Chateau is a short playlet (just 15 minutes long) written by Rebekah Bowsher and is perhaps the most accessible piece of theatre I have ever experienced. Accessed online with clear bold subtitles for Deaf viewers and voiceovers to describe the setting and look of the characters for blind or partially sighted people it enables anybody with access to the internet to engage with the story and demonstrates that emotionally truthful characters can be created in this virtual world.

The story is of two mothers who are meeting each other for the first time via Zoom prior to the wedding of their two children only to discover they have met before many years earlier. Naomi Wirthner (with bleached platinum hair) is the mother, Lisbeth, of adopted daughter Lily nervously waiting to meet the stepmother of Adam who lives in a French chateau. Julie Graham (dark hair and glasses) is Jules, Adam’s stepmother and having given Lisbeth a tour of the chateau is only recognised when she settles in front of the laptop and takes off her glasses. It sets up a tense Zoom call as the two characters explore their past lives and what they have been doing since they last met. The two actresses create believable characters, and a good sense of the heartache and disappointment created by that last meeting. You’ll have to watch to find out more!

It is simply shot and edited (presumably largely guided Covid protocols) but nevertheless Director Hara Pascal Keegan makes it feel real and interesting using the technology to provide an emotionally engaging story accessible equally by disabled and non-disabled audience. At times, the bittersweet relationship that is exposed reminded me of the wonderfully Staged playlets on BBC with Martin Sheen and David Tennant. 

We don’t meet Adam and Lilly as the production finishes just as the two children join the call and so we are left wanting to know more and see what happens next. Like in Staged, there is definitely scope for further episodes or flashbacks to previous meetings and I hope Rebekah Bowsher will give us a follow-up episode!

Review by Nick Wayne

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Online | Price of Ticket: Free
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