'My Brother, My Sister and Me' or 'Bedtime stories, midnight feasts and moonlight.'

'My Brother, My Sister and Me', Sarah Argent
Polka Theatre, 20th October 2017
Written for Guardian Stage

e’re in a lovely bedroom with sparkly carpets and beautiful painted trees on the walls. On stage, a brother and sister are figuring out how to share their bedroom, following the arrival of a baby sibling. In the theatre, my two-year-old nephew Joseph is struggling to sit alongside a crowd of noisy and excited kids. Joseph is scared and he wants to go home. By the end of Sarah Argent’s brilliant show, we have to stop him clambering on to the stage. It’s quite the transformation.

Argent creates richly detailed, funny and thoughtful shows and has had a number of hits at the Polka, including Shake, Rattle and Roll last year. She devises family theatre that speaks directly to children, and works hard to find their language, their visuals and their feelings. My Brother, My Sister and Me is based on a series of conversations with local kids and their excited chatter has led to a script that glows with quirky and authentic detail. As the siblings get ready for bed, they discuss their new sister and wonder if she “speaks baby”. When they play hide and seek – they’re too excited to sleep – the brother proudly informs his sister: “The best place to hide is in Belgium.” And when the two make up a song about a toy gecko, the rhymes echo around the room (“Geckooooo, echoooo!”).
It’s a uniquely empathetic production, and everything about it is seen through the eyes of a child. When the parents appear, they are suggested by a tiny sliver of light under the bedroom door. For their midnight feast the siblings open a sweet box which lets off a golden glow. As night sets in, the light of the moon feels magical and just a little bit frightening (Aaron J Dootson’s lighting is gorgeous), and when the two play with their toy gecko, the bedroom (designed with class by Katie Lias) throbs pink and green, transformed by the siblings’ collective imagination.
Leona Allen and Craig Gazey are careful not to act as “kids” and infuse their performances with variety and depth. Their characters are fully-rounded, prone to temper tantrums, panic attacks and spontaneous acts of love. Tiny gestures take on a great significance, as we get pulled into the siblings’ world. The brother hangs up his sister’s hats and Joseph’s face lights up with joy. The two hide under the bedcovers and Joseph dissolves with laughter. It begins to snow outside the bedroom and a beautiful night-light floods the theatre with stars. The night draws to a close and Joseph, rather than being afraid of the unknown, embraces it. The world on stage has become his world and he doesn’t want it to end.


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