Review: Keepsake, Old Red Lion Theatre ✭✭✭✭

Deep, dark secrets and dramatic revelations tearing families apart are familiar themes on the stage, but it is the sharp, witty writing of award-winning American playwright, Gregory Beam, that forces the audience to embrace this story and invest in the characters, as they begin to unravel some uncomfortable truths about their chequered family history.

Sean Martin premieres Keepsake at the Old Red Lion theatre, the story of two sisters who are forced to come together again after their father’s suicide. We are invited into the family kitchen, a realistic set that forgives any imperfect staging and adds to the fly-on-the-wall feel, and watch two sisters attempt to bond over preparations for their father’s burial. Instead, we witness the surfacing of long-buried memories and secrets, and the impact of them finally coming to light.

It is the wickedly fast-paced and authentic dialogue that drives this play forward. Beam has provided his characters with a plethora of choice lines, which for the most part, are delivered with credibility. Lou Broadbent is vivacious and compelling as Samara and, with an unfaltering American accent, she brings playfulness and charm to the character’s bold crudeness, provoking laughter from the audience throughout. In intense scenes, Broadbent is captivating, and, with a prickly defensiveness, she lends a naivity to the part, showing Samara’s vulnerable side.

Abra, played by Dilek Rose, is optimistically wide-eyed, counteracting Samara’s disillusioned view of life. As more layers of the past are stripped away, it is revealed that this innocence is perhaps more akin to denial and the seemingly more balanced sister has deep-rooted issues of her own. Rose offers herself as a strong supporting actress and the gripping monologues allow her dramatic strengths to come out a little further.

Flashbacks offer us a window to the past and are well executed. Time is transcended as Samara and her father appear on stage together, feeling almost chilling as they pick up and put down the same kitchen items, mirroring one another’s lives and the anguish within them.

Although the play climaxes when the anxious, brooding Danny, played brilliantly by James Corscadden, enters the scene with a gun, it seems lost on an audience who had, only moments ago, gripped their seats as Samara confronted Abra about the tragic childhood incident that changed their lives forever. The intensity of this scene is powerful and engaging and demonstrates that the emotional current throughout the play is strong enough, on its own, to have an lasting impact on the audience. Well-written with a talented cast, the world premiere of Keepsake promises 2014 to be a successful year for hard-hitting, memorable theatre.

**** (4 stars)
Runs until 25th January 2014
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