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My Sister Sadie - From Scarborough to West End?



Review by David Munro

THIS notice is more of an obituary than a review, as the play closed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, in Scarborough, at the beginning of the year, and, therefore, by rights, should not be noticed on a website dedicated to London's theatre, film and events.

My excuse is that it is a play by Alan Aykbourn and, as such, it is sure to be seen in the West End before long.

If it isn't, it should be, as it is one of the most delightful, funny and fantastic plays I have seen for a long time. The plot may borrow from Isaac Asimov and the theme , 'make love not war' is not original, but as presented by Sir Alan, it comes up newly minted, fresh and pleasurable.

The plot can only really be touched upon, as to do more would spoil the denouement and the ultimate pleasure of the play.

Suffice it to say there is a helicopter crash in a remote part of the country from which a girl survives unharmed.

She is shaken , bemused and terrified and the mother of a local farmer takes her in as a substitute for her daughter, who had died in a swimming accident some years previously.

All this, much to the consternation and horror of her son, Luke, who is given the task of looking after and coping with his amnesiac 'sister'.

The military and an authoritarian lady boffin are combing the wreckage of the helicopter for a scientist and her work, which is the 'ultimate weapon to end all wars', and want Sadie removed to a hospital for further questioning and pschycological treatment, to elucidate what occurred in the crash.

This is something that Luke's mother and, reluctantly, Luke are determined to prevent.

It is the clash and interplay between the authorities, Sadie, Luke and his mother, and not the predictable resolution of the plot, which provide the mainspring of the piece, and generates the humour and humanity which gives, to me at any rate, a special meaning to the play.

The cast are impeccable, and if the play does come to London it will probably be re-cast, which will be a pity.

As the survivor, Sadie, Saskia Butler gives the girl the ethereal and offbeat character which holds the audience to the end.

As her 'brother', Luke the farmer, Neil Grainger changes convincingly from bewilderment at having a new 'sister' thrust upon him, to a protective love for her, whose reciprocation provides the final twist of the plot.

As the mother who finds in Sadie a long sought-after replacement for her lost daughter, Becky Hindley gives the right mixture of down-to- earth commonsense and frustrated mother love, to make this aspect of the plot acceptable.

Justin Brett and Adrian McLoughlin play Captain Lennox and his Sergeant, Jipton, on the edge of broad farce, but still retain enough reality and humanity in the characters so as to make their role as deus ex machina at the end credible.

In perhaps the most unrewarding part in the play, Lisa, the self-appointed girlfriend of Luke, who finds the Sadie-sister relationship a little to much to accept, Charlie Hayes does all she is called upon to do, well.

The lady Boffin, Dr Thora Grayling, who reminded me of one of the Gilbertian spinsters who frequent the Savoy Operas, was in the safe hands of Alexandra Mathie, who made an endearing dragon of her.

The direction is by Sir Alan Aykbourn and, as you would expect, leaves nothing to be desired.

The set, if such can be described in theatre in the round, was by Pip Leckenby and came on, or up, convincingly when required.

In a theatrical climate, where the fantasy of Harry Potter and The Lords of the Rings, are accepted as commonplace, there is room for a play like My Sister Sadie, and I hope she finds it.

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