LULLABIES for the Lost is one of two plays written by Rosalind Blessed – yes, daughter of the magnificent 83-year old Brian – that are running until the end of the month at The Old Red Lion Theatre in London’s Islington. The other is The Delights of Dogs and the Problems of People.
It’s a powerful play (Lullabies for the Lost) that explores the various demons that grip many of us at some stage during our lives – depression, a lack of self-confidence, self-image issues or an eating disorder. How do we break out from them or is it impossible to do so?
The play starts with Larry (Chris Porter) who is debating whether to go out with friends for dinner – or cancel yet again. He’s self-loathing – ‘will they stomach me?’ he asks himself. He suddenly finds himself in a white room – representing a form of purgatory – with seven other people (all shoeless) who all go on to tell stories about their personal battles. For the most part, deeply moving experiences.
There’s Nerys (Kate Tydman), an inveterate hoarder as a result of losing the one thing she most wanted in life – a child. Sarah (Helen Bang) has never recovered from the loss of her university boyfriend and has not dated for 15 years. Her only loves are (bizarrely) woodlice and cats. Brothers Jez (Nick Murphey and Tim (Liam Mulvey) are bedevilled by insecurities.
The tales of Robin (Rosalind Blessed) and Ash (Duncan Wilkins) are the most compelling of all as they recall their battles with eating disorders. In Robin’s case, 26 years of throwing up as she battled weight and attraction ‘issues’. ‘All this in pursuit of sexual attraction,’ she says.
Ash is trance-like as he recalls his sectioning as a result of an eating order. His eyes roll as he tells his tale – nights dominated by screaming fellow patients, shower rooms awash with vomit. Powerful, quite astonishing, acting. It is only Andy (Chris Pybus) out of the seven that seems prepared or capable of moving on – a result of befriending a dog. Of breaking out of purgatory’s exit door.
It ends with Andy sitting in a room with Ma (Hildegard Neil) who via a video screen beseeches the seven to be like Andy and be positive and look at the light rather than the dark. Only his kind of positivity will enable them to escape purgatory.
Directed by Zoe Ford Burnett, Lullabies for the Lost is a thought-provoking play, written by someone with a little bit of proverbial skin in the game. Warmly received by the audience on January 18, none more so than by Brian Blessed who repeatedly whooped ‘bravo’ at the end and Hildegard Neil (Blessed’s wife and Rosalind’s mother) who was quite enamoured with her daughter’s performance. Rightly so. Bravos all round.
Title photo by Adam Trigg