Jonathan Harvey has extraordinary skill in writing sensitive, witty dialogue. Our Lady of Blundellsands is an outstanding example of his ability to create utterly believable characters in equally believable, surreal scenarios.
Ageing sisters Sylvie and Garnet share a house together. They overlook the beach at Blundellsands, where Antony Gormley’s iron statues appear to walk out into the surf like men wading to their deaths.
Sylvie’s mind is gradually ebbing away in waves, like the tide, and Garnet struggles to keep her buoyant while enduring her acid tongue. It’s Garnet’s 65th birthday, and she has invited Sylvie’s sons and their partners for a party. The air is heavy with family secrets old and new, and the party is destined to turn sour as truths are told.
Josie Lawrence and Annette Badland are a joy to watch as Sylvie and Garnet. Their verbal sparring is classic Harvey, laden with sharp one-liners; there’s more than a hint of both Blanche DuBois and Baby Jane Hudson in Sylvie’s disintegration.
Sylvie dreams of one day seeing her likeness in a stained glass window, promised to her long ago by an artist friend. As the play reaches its magical, heartbreaking conclusion, Garnet’s supposed discovery of ‘Our Lady of Blundellsands’ in a nearby church offers the solution to her worries about Sylvie’s future.
Nick Bagnall directs a tightly knit ensemble, finely balancing laughter and tears in a play that holds up a mirror to its audience, showing us something we can all recognise.