Written by Jim Spencer Broadbent, Lovely Spread is a thoughtful and funny play about two siblings reconnecting after 8 years apart at their father’s funeral. But why haven’t they spoken since they were sixteen, following their parents divorce? Well you have to watch the play to find out, I try to avoid spoilers. I will say that Broadbent has written an emotionally resonant story of a sibling bond put under strain, and the unique combination of struggle and ease that comes with trying to reconnect with someone you once knew so well.
Ruairi Lawther plays Sam, the son who stayed with their father, who organised the funeral, he seems very grown-up, settled and older than his years. Aoife Brown is Laura, she left with their mother when their parents split, she has been travelling and at 24 is enjoying the freedom of youth. Both Lawther and Brown bring a wonderful energy to the piece. They have a great chemistry that makes them very convincing siblings. Their performances really come into their own as the play develops, and builds towards the exuberant final scenes.
Director Tom Davis-Coleman draws strong performances from his cast of two. His challenge comes from balancing the strong two-hander moments with the recorded voice ‘other people at the funeral’ interactions. It is always a challenge to integrate live actors with recorded voices, and it doesn’t totally work here, which can be distracting. There is a particularly significant interaction between Laura and (the voice of) Dawn, which loses its power because there is no Dawn on stage. I don’t think it is giving away too much to say that I wanted to watch the well-meaning Dawn squirm a little. The world being the way it is at the moment, I can understand the need to keep the cast small, but feel it is important to acknowledge that this piece would benefit from a full cast, which I hope is the ultimate ambition.
Lovely Spread starts slowly but it certainly doesn’t end that way, building towards a high energy crescendo. Here Davis-Coleman’s directorial vision truly comes into its own. I don’t want to say too much but it is so much fun. Plus the choice Broadbent makes to end the play at the moment that he does, is spot on.
Lovely Spread runs at the Etcetera Theatre until Sunday 22nd August (shows at 9.30pm).