25 November 2009
Mandy Redvers-Rowe reviews Crossings by Julie McNamara - performed at The Unity Theatre, Liverpool on 20 November, as part of DaDaFest 2009.
The publicity for ‘Crossings’ made it sound dreadfully worthy, and the sort of thing that I wouldn’t normally put myself out to go and see. But it just goes to show you, doesn’t it, how misleading a write up can be!
For this beautifully crafted, subtle play of many layers, takes the stories of three women, from different cultures and times, and weaves them together to create humour, drama, and a relevant view on modern female oppression and slavery.
Shelley, a homeless pregnant fifteen year old, is running to escape the consequences of a drug deal that’s gone wrong. She believes that she’s seen her boyfriend killed and now the killer is after her and the drugs she’s carrying. His menacing voice echoes around the docks in search of her.
To escape, she lets herself be taken on to an abandoned Ferry by Nzingah, an elderly woman, who she’d given some money to earlier. On the Ferry, they are joined by an Irish man, or so it seems, but indeed, nothing is as it appears.
And it is here, on the old Ferry boat that the battle for the future life of Shelley’s un-born child begins. Like a female Scrooge, Shelley spends a night haunted by the distant past, with the stories told by her two ghostly companions, by the present, with the threats and reminders regularly received on her constantly ringing mobile phone, and by the future, when she is made to consider the sort of life story that will be lived out by her un-born child.
Beautifully written and beautifully acted too. With strong performances from Julie McNamara herself as Peggarty, Margo Cargil as the fierce Nzingah, Nadine Wild-Palmer as the hard faced, confused Shelley, and all signed and narrated by Hetty May Bailey in character.
But this play is not about Disability, so why has it been included in DaDaFest? Not about Disability no, but the work has been Disability led, with five out of the seven people in the production team being Disabled. Julie explains: “What’s really important to me is that the aesthetics of the piece, comes before the access.”
Of course, Julie is not writing here about disability, but as a Disabled writer and actor, she is highly committed to creating opportunities for other Disabled performers and theatre technicians.
She hasn’t compromised on the quality of the production, nor on the quality of the access either. The audio description was well considered and not intrusive. The sign language interpretation also offered narration and was interestingly staged, the sound scape was stunning and the staging inspired, and fully accessible to the actors using it.
So, go and see ‘Crossings’ yourself. I highly recommend it. And apart from congratulating Julie and team generally, I only have one thing to add, and that is, that someone needs to take another look at that publicity material, as it’s very misleading.