Onto the tiny stage of the Finborough Theatre emerges the colourful, honest and entertaining Rebecca Peyton. For the next hour and a half she proceeds to fill the stage with friends, colleagues, places and most importantly, the presence of her sister, Kate Peyton.
Peyton takes her audience back to February 2005, to the day when she found out that her journalist sister Kate Peyton had died of her injuries after being shot while working in Somalia. She vividly recounts the moment when, while in a friend’s car somewhere London’s Charing Cross, she was on the phone to her mother when their conversation was brutally interrupted by her mother making an animalistic, carnal, guttural noise. This noise confirmed her worst fears.
The 85-minute show about the bizarre, grief-stricken and yet strangely hopeful life Peyton has led since her sister’s death is at times very touching. Written with the director of the show Martin M. Bartelt, it is a play that cannot fail to remind you that life is for living. The actress works hard making the audience feel as if she was in conversation with each of them and it is a credit to both of the collaborators that the stark bare stage felt full of people and places. Peyton is never overly self-indulgent. Her performance is measured and at the times when Peyton looks moments from tears, her razor-sharp sense of humour kicks in and keeps the audience engrossed.
This one-woman show is painfully honest, brutally humorous and certainly hopeful
The audience initially feels uncomfortable listening to a story about someone else’s grief, which is part of the point of this play. Impressively, Peyton gradually dispels any initial discomfort. The play examines the awkward reactions her friends had to Kate’s death – including supplying the family with endless cottage pies and unrelenting phone calls – and simply reminds us that “the dead are dead”.
This one-woman show is painfully honest, brutally humorous and certainly hopeful; Peyton reminds us that “people are amazing”. There are distinct political undertones to Peyton’s recreation of the events that followed her sister’s death, most notable the sharply-felt hostility of the BBC in response to Kate Peyton’s murder. This was left a little unexplored, however, with the audience left wondering what became of the Peyton family’s struggles to get their questions answered.
For all of the wit and heart at the core of this show, there was a slight lack of emotional connection at times. The theatricality of the show did at times overwhelm the sincerity of Peyton’s performance. Also, the pace of the show is interrupted by unnaturally long pauses in Peyton’s speech. This play does have great potential to tug at even more heartstrings than it did, to move the audience even more, if only the performance was consistently as sincere as it felt at times.
Despite this, Rebecca Peyton is instantly likeable, and her frankness about death is refreshing. Sometimes I Laugh Like My Sister is a unique and entertaining piece of theatre.
*** (3 stars)
Runs Sundays & Mondays until January 23rd 2012