Pros: An inventive storyline is complemented by a compact script and a good cast.
Cons: Transitions between past and present in the plot could have been a touch clearer.
At one of London’s classiest theatres, the decor never fails to impress. A series of beautifully framed pictures line the winding staircase down to the studio; Monroe, Loren, Sinatra and Cary Grant all serve to create a subtle atmosphere in a snug performance area. I settled into a comfy barstool as the show began.
Unearthed is a curiously bright piece focussing on four protagonists. Siblings Ben (Chris Ashby) and Eliza (Lizzie Stables) both strive confidently to get the better of each other; Daisy (Alana Ramsey) is Ben’s partner and carer to his father in his later days; Simon (Edward Mitchell) is the family solicitor and holder of the father’s last will and testament. The story focuses on a codicil added to the will shortly before the siblings’ father’s death. Simon reveals a number of tasks have to be completed by Ben and Eliza before they can inherit their father’s estate. So begins a series of quirky, moving and, on occasion, very funny exchanges between the siblings.
Simon dutifully keeps score as the pair struggle to complete the tasks set for them. There’s a re-enactment of their school sports day, with a wheelbarrow race in particular. They also have to learn the dance moves to S Club 7’s Don’t Stop, and climb the biggest hills. We soon discover their late father is trying to bring the warring siblings together by making them re-tracing their childhood, reminding them what they mean to each other. As the story unfolds, some unpleasant truths are aired as simmering tensions rise to the surface. You sense the departed father just wants his children to talk and settle their differences.
The conclusion to the story is well judged and genuinely heart-warming. Although you don’t feel it immediately, this story strikes a chord the more you think about it. Families have their agendas and siblings have their issues, both with each other and with their parents. We are sometimes left with unfinished business when we lose someone close to us because we didn’t talk enough, or, in some cases, didn’t talk at all. This thoroughly sound production is lifted even further by good performances from the cast. Definitely worth a trip to the St James!
Author: Alys Metcalf
Director: Kim Pearce
Producer: Lizzie Stables and Folio Theatre
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.