Battered Lemon Theatre Company present their new play 42 Church Lane, a play which explores and beautifully overlaps the stories of the people inhabiting this address over almost a century.
Performed and created by five of the BA (hons) Acting and Creative Practitioner students of the University of Northampton, the three colliding narratives cleverly dissect relationships both with each other and the world and with the inevitability that power distorts the dynamic of even the most earnest human connections.
The whole story centres around not simply just a postcode but a sofa – the heart of the home and the heart of the story. A sofa, around which we explore relationships at their strongest and at their most vulnerable. The simplistic set is foremost introduced to us as a family home in 1941, a family awaiting the return of their son Arthur (Samuel Jordan) who has been away at war. The depiction of an idyllic reunion of a once broken family is soon similarly broken as it comes to light that although Arthur is free from fighting, he is far from free of the traumas of the battle field. Ruth (De-Anna Matthews), his sister, also has to come to terms with what the return of her brother does to the family dynamic.
Decades later, a young couple move into this address. Megan (Erin Thorpe) and Jamie (Shannon Couchman) fill the flat with the energy of their seemingly fresh faced, bushy eyed romance and dreams of starting a family together through their continued attempts at fertility treatment. The third narrative follows Mia (Amy Catherine) a bright, young pharmaceutical physician who with the newly privatised NHS in 2027, opens a vaccination clinic at the address to distribute the MMR vaccine. She is reunited with an old university friend who comes to discover that Mia’s intents might not be as clear as first presented.
Initially, all that seems to connect these stories is their location. They are people living in different eras with different struggles and needs, but as the play progresses the stories weave seamlessly and pose the question of how different are we really to those who came before us. We fight different battles but relationships are still stretched and challenged in the same way. Megan and Jamie’s relationship begins with such a playful and vibrant energy but as the power dynamic between the two becomes clear, there is a complete shift of tone. My favourite moment of the piece being a silent exchange between the couple catalysed by an argument over a Chinese take-a-way, a conversation of looks perfectly highlighted the toxic manipulation.
The cast’s vibrant energy throughout was to be applauded, the use of physical sequences to explore power were effective and at times very moving. With the narratives coinciding so frequently, it did take time for certain pieces of the story to click into place. A spoken word piece regarding Jamie’s struggles with abuse as a child alongside a dynamic movement piece only clicked into place much later in the play. This did mean however the play was far from predictable, the story line cleverly kept each narrative engaging and incalculable while coinciding with the parallel stories harmoniously. What connected the stories best was the depiction of humanity, times can change but our brains are still wired the same way – characters living opposing lives at opposing times are shown in parallel struggling with the same raw, human emotions.
The play felt extremely fresh, questioning issues of past, present and future. The depiction of Mia’s world with the privatisation of the NHS alongside the continual increase of the population was extremely relevant, if not terrifyingly real. Her moral high ground is questioned yet with the realness and urgency of the situation, our morals and beliefs are also questioned – how would we behave in a future mapped out like this one?
42 Church Lane is a cleverly constructed piece that explores relevant issues honestly and with humility, it questions how we as humans handle power and how this power affects the ones we love the most.
Performance: Wed 1 May 2019
42 Church Lane is being performed as part of The University of Northampton’s Fringe Festival (29th April – 5th May) taking place at The Platform Club, George’s Row.
Megan is an actor-musician originally from Northampton. She is a recent graduate of Surrey-based theatre company Peer Productions. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, watching live theatre, going to gigs and befriending dogs.