A modern age political rant that is both hilarious and heartbreaking; Spine, by the Channel-4 playwright Clara Brennan, is here to provoke.
The acclaimed one-woman play is a stage apotheosis about the beautiful friendship between a wrathful teen and an adventurously spirited widow. Spine was first written as a 15-minute short rant for Theatre Uncut; now it is an hour long fiercely sharp monologue about politics, feminism and having dreams. Potentially, this may sound too serious and thought-consuming. Nevertheless, Spine is hilarious and witty; an amazing piece of theatre for any public.
Amy is a chavy girl that has failed her A-levels. Just lost her job, she wonders between an unsupportive and uncaring family and a selfish thief for a boyfriend. Glenda is an elderly lady with increasing health problems who saves books from closing libraries. After the death of her husband, she has been living alone in her memory haunted house at the East End. The one thing Amy and Glenda have in common are their free spirited, explosive characters, and maybe a money-oriented government that does not take people as a priority.
Inexplicably, the two characters form a relationship built on Amy’s feistiness for life and Glenda’s fierce sense of justice. While Amy helps out with cleaning chores in the house which according to her looks like ‘an Amazon fucking warehouse’, Glenda bravely attempts to frustrate her about politics and the world in general. The piled to the ceiling books in this haunted house are Glenda’s legacy and precious gift to Amy. Through the years the widowed lady had stolen them for the closing library nearby. ‘Of course they want to close them down,’ Glenda sights, ‘they have nothing for sale.’ The woman teaches Amy about literature, tells her long stories about her husband and the war, about the creation of the NHS. Slowly, she wakes up the imagination of the rebellious teen, gives her a direction to her anger and builds a political conscious in her mind.
The intergenerational dialogue between the two characters is the personal manifesto of Clara Brennan, Spine’s writer. The piece has grown as a comedy with a political tenor inspired by the closure of Kensal Rise Library by Labour Brent council, one that the author Mark Twain opened in 1900. Brennan appears as strongly opinionated about political parties, the youth generation and the way they should be angrier than they are. ‘You’re a people person. Be more angry!’ – screams Glenda. Every moment of Spine is brilliantly and wisely written as to finish off the viewer’s thoughts and create new ones.
The play has an incredibly focused storytelling form. Young and talented Rosie Wyatt plays both characters; she begins and ends with the same level of intensity despite the constant shift of voice, posture and habits. She talks angrily at the public, sometimes vents off frustration and plain fear; she is emotional and charming.
Every word and every move seem purposeful; the play provokes innovative thoughts and unknown emotions. The show must be recognised as an absolute masterpiece.
Spine is on at Soho Theatre till Sunday, the 2nd of November.
Photo credit: Richard Davenport