Clara Brennan’s Spine (winner of Channel 4 Playwrights’ Scheme) sees two characters (both played by Clara) struggle to find a way to make a difference in a world that has failed them both in one way or another. The first character Amy is a young delinquent from a poor family who has taken to burglary and and violence in her journey down the wrong path into adulthood. The second character Glenda is an elderly widow from the East End who sees fit to recruit Amy and attempt to inspire her to challenge the world through literature and finding her political voice.
As the show opened, I wondered what we had walked into. A young girl-gang member was spouting her story in that stereotypical ‘rude-girl’ accent, leading me to assume that we were watching yet another play about life on the estate. It was switching into Glenda however that turned it all around. Hunching her body over into a crippled little old lady made her frail all of a sudden, and the change of her voice into an East End drawl turned the tone of the show from young and idiotic into something far deeper than it first appeared. Both characters were funny, heartbreaking, aggressive and inspiring and guided the audience through a series of emotions you simply did not expect to feel when Amy first appeared on stage.
By the end of the show you are forced to recognise the similarities between the two characters, rather than their differences, and cannot help but feel inspired by the way Glenda and Amy become such an unlikely team. It certainly taught me a lesson – never judge a book by it’s cover, or indeed a play by its poster.