In its premiere production Notes to Future Self contemplates universal and timeless themes of family and mortality. Thirteen year old Sophie has terminal cancer. Having been brought up travelling the world with her hippy mother Judy and older sister Calliope, the family suddenly find themselves thrust back into the normality of urban living, taking refuge with Daphne, Judy’s mother, in Birmingham whilst Sophie undergoes treatment.
With little set and just a few props simplicity of staging is key to this production. The narrative is solid enough and performances mostly strong enough to carry the play without needing extraneous matter cluttering the stage
The trio of supporting characters each have their own space on the stage where they continually retreat to which highlights the loneliness deeply embedded in all three. However, a poignant scene where the four characters bond and laugh over books in Sophie’s bedroom shows that deep underneath the tenuous nature of the family dynamics lies a solid and loving bond.
At times irritating and irrational and at other times insightful beyond her years, protagonist Sophie is written as a remarkably well rounded teenager especially considering the lack of stability in her upbringing. However, I really struggled to warm to her and this is in part due to Imogen Deal’s melodramatic and over the top performance which Director Rachel Kavanaugh needs to reign in, but also because Sophie is the least real of the four characters.
Jane Lowe shows Daphne to be a sensitive and loving Grandmother who cares deeply for those around her. As Calliope, Jayne Wisener effectively portrays a teenage girl dealing maturely with emotions and changes that are alien to her. Judy is the most distant and complex character here and the superb Amanda Ryan makes it clear that Judy is struggling to stay strong and to come to terms with the inevitable tragedy about to befall her.
Whilst Notes is not a brilliant play, it has a fascinating premise and shows real potential in its writer Lucy Caldwell.