Theatre503 once again brings us a new work that is moving, riveting and questioning. Safaa Benson-Effiom’s new play, Til Death Do Us Part, puts marriage, love, family and grief firmly in the spotlight, all wrapped up in some deft writing that raises both a smile and tear.
Under the neat direction of Justina Khinde the play moves with real zeal as family life and personal intimacies are played out. Yet, this sharp engaging production exposes the cracks beneath, with moments of recall that disturb and provoke.
From the start, the stylised opening suggests that all may not be as it seems, with jarring repeated movements, sighs and sobs that mingle with what seems like regular family life; and so the play unwinds. Richard Holt, playing the husband, Daniel, gives a nuanced performance. It is light and breezy, yet thoughtful and painful as he recalls moments that are gone forever while imagining empty times yet to come. Daniel is locked in pain with his wife Sylvia (Danielle Kassarate) who, with a dynamic and bold delivery, fights for the right to grieve alone, as she deals with ‘the deafening silence’ of loss.
The love in this family seems to centre around their son, Andrew (Jude Chinchen) and it’s through his dreams and ambitions that Sylvia lives out her own aspirations, whereas Daniel suspects that maybe there is too much parental pressure. All the cast still manage to fill Benson-Effiom’s creative script with good humour and pathos, as they recall and wrestle with joy, love and loss.
The schoolboy, Andrew, is preparing a science presentation on particles within the collision theory, and both parents dote on his every word – full of pride. However, Benson-Effiom’s script exposes a paradox, as the theory somehow reflects in the family dynamics; particles do collide with each other, and some bring about change. By contrast the emotional collisions in this household might not be considered successful, as those involved reel from grief and their own inadequacies.
The forceful, jarring and repetitive opening resonates throughout the play; we have several moments, words and moves echoing another time, yet linking with the present. Under the direction of Khinde these are powerful and touching. They demonstrate that looking back changes nothing, and wishing for a different outcome is futile, as the road of our reactions was furrowed a long time back. We collide, we change – or not. And before you know it, as a phone message says, ‘there’s no one here to take your call’, and you find out when it’s all too late that the tiniest change can make a big difference.
The set, designed by Emeline Beroud, serves the production well, allowing the family to use the room with a claustrophobic effect, yet suggesting another dimension as the son drifts through the gauze or auditorium. Tom Foskett-Barnes has designed a soundscape that adds focus and tension to this emotional journey of love and loss.
This new play is a moving, carefully crafted study of family dynamics and grief. It’s definitely worth seeing soon.
Written by: Safaa Benson-Effiom
Directed by: Justina Kehinde
Set and Costume Design by: Emeline Beroud
Lighting Design by: Chris McDonnell
Composed and Sound Design by: Tom Foskett-Barnes
Movement Direction by: Tian Brown-Sampson
Produced by: Darcy Dobson
Til Death Do Us Part plays at Theatre503 until 21 May. Further information and bookings can be found here.