Review: 3*** River in the Sky – Hope Theatre @TheHopeTheatre

Tweetingit: 3* A young couple dealing with the death of a child; a surprisingly touching story of life and loss.

Society rarely deals with death as well as it should. How could it be any other way? Those left behind are consumed by grief; but an instinct for survival somehow finds a way of coping with the trauma. River in the Sky portrays the death of an infant; perhaps the most challenging loss of all. How do you mourn a life lost and unlived; a stream of ifs, buts and maybes. No first day at school, no first girlfriend, no memories of potential fulfilled?

Ellie and Jack (Lindsey Cross and Howard Horner) begin life as an idealistic young couple, happily joshing about the number of children they might have. Reality soon kicks in as Ellie suffers a series of miscarriages. A longed for baby boy finally arrives and their happiness knows no bounds. However, tragedy strikes when their child dies suddenly.  Couples will typically react in one of two ways; bereavement can draw them closer together or completely drive them apart. Ellie and Jack occupy the middle ground as they come to terms with the trauma. They try to rationalise their feelings but struggle to find the same page. Talk of tea and biscuits are substitute for the painful conversations that lie in wait. But they find relief in wondrous tales of tornadoes and magnificent beasts. It becomes a powerful diversion and escape from the grief they both share. A touching final scene allows them peace, resolution and closure.

The play works well as a two-hander and is solidly written. Lindsey Cross and Howard Horner are both very capable actors and deliver controlled performances. A most distressing emotion is portrayed with sensitivity and understanding. The realisation we are never quite the same when a loved dies is laid bare. But the essential message that we survive and move on is equally apparent. The subject matter is depressing and would not ordinarily constitute a great night out. A disappointingly thin audience would bear testament to the fact. We are confronted with the one thing we dread most in life. But it’s a brave decision to write a play that explores the emotional fallout of bereavement. For that alone it deserves our respect and admiration.

Author/Director: Peter Taylor

Producers: Charlie Arundel, Lindsey Cross and Peter Taylor

Box Office: 0333 666 3366

Booking Link: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/thehopetheatre/river-in-the-sky/e-reblop

Booking Until: 24 August 2019

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