Review – Nine More Lives, Ellipsis Ensemble, Flash Festival, University of Northampton 3rd Year Acting Students, Castle Hill, Northampton, 1st April 2019

Flash FestivalThe private lives of public figures are a source of endless fascination for the general public, from the showy escapades of the Kardashians to the Latin names of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s children. However, much more than mere celebrity-bait, what happens when a public figure with strong political convictions is faced with a personal crisis that disrupts her comfortable and ambitious lifestyle and completely undermines those convictions?

Nine More LivesEllipsis Ensemble’s Nine More Lives portrays such a character. Minister of Health and Social Care Emily has come up with a policy for improving the health of the nation that should also appeal to the right-wing populists out there. Give to Get; you can only receive an organ transplant if you’re an organ donor. No give; no get. The Prime Minister is interested; she’s inviting Emily to discuss the policy further with a special invitation to No. 10. This could be just the boost her career needs. She even has Molly, the super-efficient PA, to diarise both her work and family commitments. But when she finds out that her brother requires a heart transplant, personal involvement trumps political expediency… doesn’t it? And when a media interview doesn’t go too well, is it the PA who is to blame for a bad briefing, or has she simply not thought this through….?

Izzy WeaverThe cast of three all give excellent performances in a variety of roles. Izzy Weaver plays Minister Emily; statesmanlike with her clipped public speaking, proficient with the practised patronising smile in public, but happy to kick off her shoes and devour the biscuit supply when no one’s watching. We all have our own opinions about politicians, and there is something delicious about seeing one squirm when they have to bat away unanswerable questions! Ms Weaver gives a very credible and strong performance as the up-and-coming minister who has to balance her personal realities with her political façade.

Moses GaleMoses Gale packs an emotional punch in his portrayal of Darren, Emily’s brother, faced with an impossible decision regarding his health treatment; I also enjoyed him as the awkward media interviewer and Emily’s philosophical father, and he’s also extremely entertaining as a disreputable journalist from the Telegraph. Beth Hâf Jones impresses as the reassuringly competent PA, the hospital doctor with bad news to break and as various invasively inquisitive journalists.

Beth Hâf JonesThis thought-provoking and moving play ought perhaps to come with a trigger warning – if you or your family and friends have been affected by the subject of organ donation, make sure you’re in a good place mentally before seeing this play! If you’re not a donor, you may well become one once you’ve seen it. The unashamedly brightly emotional ending pretty much brought a lump to my throat and the audience goes home feeling the sunshine after the rain. Very neatly and professionally done. Congratulations!