For many of us, our closest confidantes have been our siblings. From secrets and admissions, including the ones within shared knowledge and the ones deliberately kept hidden from each other, this relationship is equally unique in its love-hate characteristics. In Catherine Cranfield’s play Flushed, we see this contradiction at play through the story of sisters Marnie and Jen. From boy problems and adulthood woes to annoying habits and profound decisions, they rely on each other for better and for worse.
Unfolding as a series of unfiltered conversations shared between cubicle walls of public bathrooms, we meet the older sister Marnie (Elizabeth Hammerton) who tries to play by the rules and is working hard to become a self-functioning adult. Her hopes for a fulfilling romantic relationship are perhaps exceeded only by her concerns about her younger sister’s smoking habit. Meanwhile, Jen (Iona Champain) has a more relaxed outlook towards life and prefers to live in the moment, much to her sister’s indignation at times. Life is good for them in their early 20s, as they traverse awkward social situations and life decisions with each other as their sounding board. The show focuses on a pivotal moment in the sisters’ relationship that threatens the bond of trust they’ve nurtured so far. Marnie gets diagnosed with a rare, life-changing medical condition that leaves her unable to carry a pregnancy and Jen’s less than adequate response isn’t helping. As casual conversations turn into concentrated criticism, we see their relationship evolve to a level wherein they learn to recognize their individual flaws and make amends, big and small, to address them.
Hammerton beautifully brings out Marnie’s inner older sister complex that struggles to control and let go at the same time, wringing out the character’s gradual, painful realization of the implications of the diagnosis. Champain offers an edgy, energetic and easily provoked portrayal of the younger sister that masterfully shifts into a more matured, responsible disposition as the character begins to move past her old ways. The minimal stage design, consisting of two toilet seats spread across an imagined cubicle wall, allow us to focus on the sharp-witted writing and rely on the performer’s vocal delivery to imagine the different scenarios being talked about. This is complemented by Oscar Maguire’s measured sound design that punctuates the shift in time and action and Anthony Englezou’s light design that uses soft, neon-led lighting to create a visual palette for the shifting conversations.
To summarize, Flushed is a delightfully funny and heart-breaking ode to sisterhood and family. It serves to remind us about how our intentions, actions and words may not come across as consistently as we’d like them to whilst having difficult conversations with those we care deeply about.
You can watch Flushed at the Park Theatre N4 3JP till 4th November 2021. Learn more and book your tickets at https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/flushed
Reviewer: Gaurav Singh Nijjer
Reviewed: 20th October 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★