When Till the Stars Come Down began, we wondered whether now was really the right time for this show to be staged. Set during a family wedding in the former mining heartland of Mansfield, it initially seemed to focus on Eastern European immigration, specifically the number of Polish people who had moved to the town to seek work in its factories. This seemed to be a hot topic of political debate in the run up to the EU referendum, but the conversation seems to have moved on a bit since then – during the opening scenes we wondered if this show was being performed about a decade too late.
Over the course of a couple of hours, however, this play reveals itself to be a blistering and brilliant social commentary on life in post-Brexit Britain. It tells the stories of three sisters – Sylvia, Hazel and Maggie – and is set during the day of Sylvia’s wedding to Marek, who is Polish. As the temperature on the summer’s day rises, and the drinks start flowing, the family members’ various views begin to air. We witness undertones of casual racism, which has become normalised within the family and so goes unchecked; we see the words and actions of the older generations become the learned behaviours of the children in the show – it’s all wonderfully-observed.
It’s also laugh-out-loud funny – almost unbelievably so. The wit of Beth Steel’s writing is, at times, difficult to keep up with – the pace of the punchlines seems almost unrealistic for a family gathering, but it sure makes for an entertaining evening. The arrival of Aunty Carol (Lorraine Ashbourne) always livens proceedings – she delivers her jokes with the expert timing of a stand up comedian and displays brilliant physical comedy when dancing to Britney Spears at the wedding.
We always enjoy checking out new works at the Dorfman space within the National Theatre – sometimes we find an absolute gem, and Till the Stars Come Down falls firmly into that category. From a simple opening scene about the various small stresses of getting ready for a wedding, it gradually reveals itself to be a sharp, intelligent and brilliantly funny social commentary. It’s a wonderful ensemble piece, too – all the actors impress – and it looks and sounds great. Definitely worth picking up a ticket.
GAY TIMES gives Till the Stars Come Down – 5/5
More information can be found here.