The Breath of Life

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Madeleine (Suzanna Pickering) is a retired curator living alone on the Isle of Wight. One day she is visited by Frances (Nina Trebilcock), a woman she has only met once and who is now enjoying sudden success late in life as a popular novelist.

Frances thinks she needs closure, Madeleine thinks she is experiencing writers block and her visit is to gain some content for a new novel and Madeleine has no intention of being a character in a book.

Their lives have been intertwined for the past 25 years as Madeleine has been having an affair with Martin, Frances’ husband. However both women have moved on, and so has Martin who is now living in the US with his new, much younger lady.

The play depicts the 24 hours these women are in each other’s company. Frances misses the boat back to the mainland and has to remain at Madeleine’s until the next morning for the next boat. She didn’t intend to stay that long, however this extra time allowed the conversation to go deeper than she expected. Even though Frances wasn’t actually expecting anything, in fact she wasn’t too sure why she was there.

A very heartfelt, sincere play of two different women talking and discussing how each other have played into the course of their lives. It’s set when both women have moved on from the hurt and therefore it’s more reflective, it would be a different story otherwise! Exploring each other’s lives which they only guessed about, is it a life worth living if it’s all been a lie, or what price is living a life and loving a man but never being able to be with him? As they question and explore each other’s lives it helps both to have a different level of closure.

The conversation they have, the secrets they share and their feelings over the same man are endearing, it was very realistic and highly watchable.

The two actresses were excellent, each portraying the different women perfectly. Madeleine is the more radical, free thinking, independent, strong woman and Frances who has always been the less confident, house wife, mother yet is finding her voice with her new writing career. Two very opposite women who are still able to have respect for each other during this 24 hours.

This was an engaging performance of an interesting story which kept you watching until the end. The play was written by David Hare, a man, although it was very enjoyable, I wonder how different it would be if written by a woman?

The Seagull Theatre in Lowestoft is a small not for profit community theatre which plays host to a regular stream of local talent, regional and national touring theatre companies – definitely worth checking out their listings.


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