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Expectations (Tour - Manchester)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Venue: Contact Theatre
Where: Manchester

Kristina Branden Whitaker (who also acts in the play) wrote Expectations in an effort to raise awareness of issues surrounding the subject of children who have rare chromosome disorders. Therefore, you might expect a fairly grim evening but the play avoids this by being told with insight, humanity and – surprisingly- humour.

A good example is after reading the horrific list of problems from which his daughter might suffer, a father remarks that at least she will not support Manchester United.

Expectations describes the effect of the choice made by two couples when they are made aware that their long awaited child will have a chromosome disorder so rare that it does not even have a name. These range from practical problems like securing respite care and suffering from sleep deprivation to the psychological such as denial and guilt.

The script makes convincing connections between the couples even though Theresa (Sally Walsh) and Paul (Nick Mason) are Salfordians and Mattias (Johan Orjefelt) and Klara (Branden Whitaker) live in Sweden. The only slight slip, in a script that brims with insight and humour and achieves a convincing twist, is that occasionally some of the dialogue sounds a bit outdated.

The starkly modern black and white set by Ger Olde Monnikhof is an excellent example of how effective simple props can be if used with imagination. We are taken to airports, hospitals and a cemetery and also brings some of the chill of those institutions into the homes of the characters. Yet the simple construction allows rapid changes between the many scenes.

Gary Whitaker directs the talented cast with empathy. He makes great use of the ability of Mason and Branden Whitaker to convey emotion wordlessly by body language or facial expressions. The scene featuring these characters absorbing the terrible news about their children is made all the more powerful, as it is played in shocked silence. Walsh demonstrates how one can draw on extraordinary levels of courage to survive constant stress. Orjefelt gives us someone struggling not only with his own grief but also determined to understand the actions of his wife.

Expectations helps you believe that there is hope in what most of us would think to be the worse possible circumstances.

-Dave Cunningham



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