“It’s all about the prawns.” Sometimes the greatest things in the world can leave the most horrendous impact, making you scared to try them again, to open yourself up again. Despite W’s (Nicola Wren) opening exclamation, the crustaceans are not, in fact, to blame. Or at least, one shouldn’t be afraid of trying them one more time, with gusto. Replay is a one-woman show about facing the past and forgiving the people no longer with us. W, a young police officer, is gearing up for a big interview on her way to become one of the youngest sergeants in her district. Rigorously and stringently reviewing her responses, W is near-neurotic about her self-discipline. Yet all that is shattered when her mother sends her a cassette tape from her deceased older brother, Jamie, forcing a pain long ignored to the forefront of her mind. Weaving her way through the present, the past, and her haunted dreams, W brings the audience on an emotional ride through her memories of her brother and the decision on his place in her life today, now that he’s gone.
One-woman introspectives have been popular on the London and Fringe theater scene over the last few years, with the most successful rendition, Fleabag, being turned into its own television series. Compared to the many I had the fortune to review while in London, Replay will not be the most memorable. The language, character, and conceit are not quite unique enough to stick firmly in the mind. That being said, Replay is a moving tribute to a sister’s love for her big brother and the devastation that can be wreaked when that is lost. W struggles whether she should hold tightly onto her brother’s memory or purge him from her life entirely, a trying battle for all stories of loss, but especially when the one gone chose to leave. It is an import that I highly recommend people see while they have the chance.
Wren is particularly skilled at portraying other people through W’s gaze. Though she doesn’t become a child or an Indian cab driver, Wren manages to paint a picture so vivid it is like every character echoed on the stage. Peppered with childlike joy, Nicola Wren’s wide eyes and expressive face delightfully jump between her current hardened, but cracking mid-20-year-old and the imaginative, no shame little sister she had been. The genuine innocence on her face makes the knowledge of her heartbreak that much more devastating and relatable. Beautifully accompanying Wren’s committed performance are minimalistic, yet poignant sound and light designs. The three work together to capture the essence of the different locations W brings us. The audience is transported to the same London spots, distorted through the lens of both the magical mist of memories and the disappointing reality of today. This is not the first show to deal with the topic of loss and anger at those who leave us, but it finds its unique ground in the ease with which Wren reveals both the adult and the child.