Des Fleurs – The Space – Review
by Hugh Maguire
The Space, London E14 3RS
25 Oct – 29 Oct
It is becoming something of a cliché or a theatre luvvie truism that some of the best theatre in London is not in the West End. Gabrielle Silvestre’s Des Fleurs seems to prove the point. Produced by the energetic, indeed appropriately named Fury Entertainment, the play (comparatively short at 70mins) packs a punch addressing love, old age, family relations, dementia, loss, bereavement, sexuality and a sense of place. Admittedly staged in the East End it could be like a month’s storyline of East Enders but all distilled to the essence. The onset of dementia and decisions around the need to sell a family home trigger memories of past days and past loves, indeed what might have been. Two timelines collide and overlap, and through effective writing and more than competent direction and acting, the piece holds together well. As the main character (powerfully acted) confronts the now, dementia and the loss of a home, we are brought to her world of memories and the recall of a female lover and the might-have-been life, as well as the decisions made. Past and present swim together. In this, there is something of the quality, or ambition, of Abi Morgan’s Lovesong (2011), itself coming from T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, where time periods overlap, and on a lighter touch, the habits and mannerisms of a young couple are still in place forty years later and still as annoying. So too here with the aunt, her martyrdom complex, and the obsession with making tea to solve all problems. It is an endearing, and humane, touch.
The diversity of themes allows the audience to come to the play with many access points, love experience, same-sex love, motherhood, old age, coping with ill parents and that tension between wanting to care for someone and at the same time wanting to almost hit them when they won’t accept help. Hidden perhaps beneath the narrative is a cry for caring for people in their own homes. Regardless of how effective the care home might be with its facilities, it is also clear that the home proper with its memories (burden of memories?) might also be the better option. How families and wider society deals with that is, of course, another matter, but the play and company don’t shy away from raising such issues and it is all done with subtlety and empathy. It is not a play, and not a production, that uses a sledgehammer to get to the kernel of its multiple messages. The play only has a short run, but such a play and such companies need to be more seen and prove that theatre has plenty of life yet!
Playwright/Director: Gabrielle Silvestre
Producer: Rachel Harley
Cast: Libby Boyd, Nadav Burstein, Samuel Hoult, Naomi Hyatt-Golding, Sophie Macdonald, Laima Helena Vanaga, Harriet Whitbread