As Beautiful Burnout wins the awards and attention from Frantic Assembly and the National Theatre of Scotland, Article 19 have unearthed this earlier Bryony Lavery play in a much less grand production at the Underbelly. And what a discovery.
Written in 2004 and previously seen in a short run at Birmingham Rep, Last Easter is, as unlikely as it sounds, a tragicomedy about cancer and assisted suicide. It centres on four theatre folk – June, Gash, Leah and Joy. When June is diagnosed with terminal cancer, the others organise a pilgrimage to Lourdes, in search of a miracle. And they find one, too – though it’s not a cure for cancer.
As June declines – “dying is a fascinating project”, she decides, but there’s no dwelling on the “boring, boring, boring” bits of her disease - her quirky mates must deal with their own feelings of loss and the pain of watching someone they love in pain. Friendship is salvation for them all.
The four-strong cast of University of Birmingham students and recent graduates – Patsy Ferran (incredibly watchable), Alastair Knights, Jessica Preston, Hannah Lemon (as June, my one niggle is that she doesn’t look even slightly ill, a wig and some makeup would be a good investment) – wring every ounce of humour and pathos from the material, under Joe White’s direction.
This is a heartbreakingly good play, beautifully acted. If I could give it six stars, I would. I cannot recommend it highly enough.