“I’ve just watched a play about a policewoman coming to terms with her brother’s suicide,” I tell a friend I bump into on the street, after seeing DugOut Theatre’s new show Replay. It’s a sloppy, simplistic description that I know doesn’t do the play justice. Thankfully my friend’s girlfriend arrives soon after, giving me the chance to try again: “I’ve just seen a play about coming to terms with the death of someone close to you, years after it happened,” I say, feeling slightly happier with this description.
Written and performed by Nicola Wren, Replay follows a hard-skinned police officer’s struggle to come to terms with the death of her older brother – many years after it happened – when a series of coincidences make her confront her loss.
Wren is an animated storyteller who grips our attention throughout her monologue. With the aid of Max Perryment’s sound design – featuring the nightmarish whirring of a washing machine and tape recorded messages from brother Jamie – Wren leads us back in time, dissolving the tough, no-nonsense persona she’s built up for herself as a police woman to recall her childhood wonderment and excitement at visiting big brother Jamie in Camden. The final scene, in which she dances nostalgically to James’s 1990 hit ‘Sit Down’ – is hugely moving.
There are a few too many coincidences though, which overdo the present moment’s connection to losing Jamie. For example, the young girl Wren’s character helps needn’t also be wearing a mood ring like her own childhood one, and it’s unlikely a hit from 1990 would have played on the radio in the taxi, the same day Wren’s character has walked through London listening to it. These overly convenient happenings aside, Replay deals with everyday tragedy in such a pure, human way, Wren makes an ordinary story of coming to terms with loss a powerful one.