THE ALMIGHTY SOMETIMES Review: Kendall Feaver's striking debut balances humour with emotional acuity

Julie Hesmondhalgh and Norah Lopez Holden in THE ALMIGHTY SOMETIMES. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Julie Hesmondhalgh and Norah Lopez Holden in THE ALMIGHTY SOMETIMES. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Powerful and thought-provoking, THE ALMIGHTY SOMETIMES is an impressive and striking debut by Kendall Feaver

It’s hard to believe that THE ALMIGHTY SOMETIMES is Kendall Feaver’s debut play. With its carefully crafted narrative, vividly drawn characters and emotional poignancy, this powerful and thought-provoking piece boasts the maturity of an established and experienced writer. No wonder it won the Judges Award at the 2015 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting.

THE ALMIGHTY SOMETIMES tells the coming-of-age story of Anna, an 18-year old woman with Bipolar Disorder. Ready to take control of her life, Anna is starting to wonder what her life would be like if she stopped taking the medication she has been on for the past seven years. Anna’s mother, who has spent years keeping her daughter safe, is appalled but is powerless to stop her. As Anna’s world becomes much more volatile and challenging, is her childhood illness returning or is the real Anna simply ‘waking up’?

Powerful, thought-provoking and full of heart, THE ALMIGHTY SOMETIMES is an unflinching and eloquent examination of the highs and lows of human emotions. Balancing witty humour with emotional acuity, this heart-breaking piece of theatre explores the complex relationship between mother and daughter and the emotional toll of growing up. As the narrative subtly shifts sympathies from one character to the next, the audience are taken on a rollercoaster journey that runs the full gamut of emotions. The piece also goes some way to exploring one of the most pressing social issues of our time – children’s mental health.

Norah Lopez Holden as Anna in THE ALMIGHTY SOMETIMES. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Norah Lopez Holden as Anna in THE ALMIGHTY SOMETIMES. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Julie Hesmondhalgh and Norah Lopez Holden shine in the lead roles as mother and daughter. Played with fight and fire, Lopez Holden perfectly captures Anna’s mix of arrogance and vulnerability while Hesmondhalgh delivers a heart-rending performance as Renee, the mother trapped between affection and despair as she watches the fallout of her daughter’s decision.

The intensity of the leads is given some light relief by the faultless comic timing of Mike Noble as Anna’s gentle, shy and caring boyfriend Oliver. There’s also some strong supporting work from Sharon Duncan Brewster as Anna’s psychiatrist Vivienne.

Yet, while the play boasts plenty of action in the first half, the production loses some of its edge after the interval with director Katy Rudd opting for an overtly theatrical and rather clichéd approach for Anna’s withdrawal as Lucy Carter’s lighting design and Giles Thomas’ sound design, flashes and flickers in a maze of bright lights and electrical short circuits.

That said, this is bold production that is so much more than just a play about mental health. This is a play about a teenager trying to break free of parental influence and find her place in the world, which is something all of us can relate to.

An impressive and striking debut by Kendall Feaver.

(4 / 5)

THE ALMIGHTY SOMETIMES runs at the Royal Exchange Theatre until 24 February 2018.

About Donna

Donna is the Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she is a digital marketing whizz, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage, The Public Reviews and ScreenRelish. Loves Shakespeare, prosecco and Formula 1