It’s the start of a new era for Paines Plough. Charlotte Bennett and Katie Posner took over last year as joint artistic directors, and Run Sister Run, receiving its world premiere at the Crucible Studio, is the first production of its new season. If Chloe Moss’ new play is any indication, then the company’s reputation for excellence will remain undimmed.
Bennett directs Moss’ play, which begins with the story of middle-aged couple Connie and Adrian. Their son Jack has just been dumped by his pregnant girlfriend, while Connie is having strange dreams about her estranged sister, Ursula. Suddenly, we’re propelled back in time 10 years and we learn more about this very dysfunctional family. Moss’ dialogue is both funny and memorable – as in her previous play, The Gatekeeper, she demonstrates a real ear for bickering families.
This structure – reverse chronology in decade-length intervals – is ingenious. The story plays out over the course of 40 years, and the foreshadowing leads to some poignant moments. At one point, we see a young Connie and seemingly sweet Adrian in the early days of their relationship, a scene all the more painful to watch when he’s been revealed as a violent bully a few minutes beforehand.
Lucy Ellinson and Helena Lymbery play the sisters – Lymbery is startlingly good as the troubled Ursula, whether she be quietly bonding as a 30-something with her nephew, or terrifying the life out of Adrian two decades previously. Ellinson has the less showy role of Connie, but her quiet desperation and barely suppressed regret becomes ever more moving as the story progresses. The relationship between the two sisters is a vital part of the story, and the chemistry between Ellinson and Lymbery makes it.
The two men in the cast are less visible, but Lucas Button is excellent as Jack, whether as a shell-shocked teenager trying to deal with impending fatherhood or as a effervescent nine-year-old. Silas Carson brings a real tension to his role as Adrian – he begins as a supercilious, world-weary father but the threat of violence is forever bubbling under the surface.
Rosie Elnile’s set consists of various see-through boxes with props relevant to the story dotted around the stage, which the cast brings into play when needed. During the interludes between time jumps, Arun Ghosh’s music adds a sometimes sinister and eerie edge to proceedings.
At just 90 minutes, Bennett keeps the story moving along propulsively, and by the time this finely wrapped story has been unveiled, you want to go straight back to the start to see it unfold again.