Venue: The Space Triplex, Venue 38
Wish List, written by Katherine Soper, opens with Dean staring into the audience, or rather his mirror, applying large amounts of gel to his hair, perfecting a Jimmy Neutron mohawk. Tasmin rushes around the stage, preparing for her first day of work, and impatiently begins fighting with her brother through a bathroom door.
Tasmin, played by Chloë Johnson, is solely responsible for the care of her younger brother Dean, played by Michael Robertson. Feisty and angry at life, suppressing her dreams of pursuing physics and the stars, applying for disability benefits. Wish List, immediately excels at highlighting a broken system, which fails the very people it was designed to help.
Dean’s needs appear initially constructed, personal habits seem sporadic and added for effect rather than an actual character trait that people with mental illness often have. Dean is a difficult character to play; Robertson makes this character his own. Initially the audience is unaware of what his needs actually are, upon reading the programme I found that Dean has severe OCD. While this role actively does shed light on those with mental illness and special needs, it fails to serve the daily challenges justice.
When Tasmin’s line-manager continually reminds her that “The only limitations are the limitations you set for yourself”, both comedic and literal, Wish List attempts to coincide pressures created by zero-hour contracts, against the backdrop and narrative of complex and private lives. We also witness working- and middle-class narratives, in light of the pressure of the workplace alongside invisible struggles.
The two-piece set effectively allowed actors to create space, emphasising the storyline. Performance highlights included refreshing co-worker, Luke, played by Josh Dobinson, whose presence was a great comedic relief.
Whether it was pacing, acting or script, I was left wanting more out of the characters; some lines felt rigid, forcing and emotional connection to characters.
Wish List contains several complex subjects; mental illness, disability benefits, zero-hour contracts, but it doesn’t quite manage to bring them all together in an hour and twenty minutes, a difficult, however admirable attempt. This play boasts important messages, with brilliant pressing themes brought to the forefront in the theatre, but these messages get lost. A rushed storyline lacks emotional connection, meaning that Wish List sadly falls short of its potential.
I really wanted to love this play. I walked out of the theatre disappointed, Wish List attempts so much yet in doing so failed to give each of them sufficient time to resonate with the audience. I applaud the efforts, especially from a new theatre company, but felt a lack of emotive connection with characters, which when showcasing these subject areas is absolutely vital in storytelling.
I write this begrudgingly as this play has potential to be excellent five stars, however it needs to be tweaked.
Content warning: play contains depictions of self-harm.
Dates: August 8-28, 11:30AM, 1 hour 20 minutes.
Images: Rachel Duncan via The Space