No Place Like Hope review at Old Red Lion, London – ‘sincerity and humour’
Neither Anna nor Becca are where they are supposed to be. Teenager Becca has been forced to do community service in a hospice where Anna is a cancer patient. Callum McGowan's new play began life as a scratch piece created to pass the Bechdel test, followed by an expanded version which won the Lost One Act Festival in 2015.
Further development proved that No Place Like Hope had so much more to say about the human condition than simply challenging gender disparity. McGowan's bittersweet play explores both the way we process death and how no soul, no matter how resilient, can survive in solitude.
Despite a broad culture clash, Anna and Becca are able to connect and their brief friendship becomes a support mechanism for both. A mutual distrust of Max Calandrew's health professional Brian initially serves as a catalyst to their burgeoning relationship, but his experience of life and death in the hospice provides a fresh perspective for both.
Director Carla Kingham's careful yet fluid direction tempers the inevitable conclusion with a strong sense of hope. The sincerity and humour of McGowan's dialogue defines this work, but credit must go to performers Holly Donovan as Becca and Clare Corbett as Anna. The chemistry between these two is palpable and Donovan in particular draws out the humour of McGowan's script.
When the pain hits, however, it hits hard and the tone of the play shifts irrevocably. Corbett plays out Anna's final moments with dignity, honesty and a sense of peace.