Delightful, despairing and downright hilarious, GLEE & ME captivates the audience with its fast-paced witty script and Liv Hall’s ferocious and heart-wrenching performance
On the anniversary of 45 glorious years of the Royal Exchange, GLEE & ME captivates the audience in this delightful, despairing and downright hilarious one-woman play.
Winner of the Judges Award in the 2019 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, Stuart Slade’s dark comedy, GLEE & ME, follows the quick-witted, intelligent and loveable Lola (Liv Hall). A 16-year-old with her entire life ahead of her until a dreaded tumour diagnosis turns her world upside down.
But as Lola realises, “it’s possible to finish a bowl of Coco Pops with a death sentence hanging over you”, so she sets out to accomplish two things before glee (Glioma Multiforme) takes over her brilliant brain. Firstly, she will get “All the Sex” because dying as a virgin is ‘tragic’, and secondly, she will discover the “Meaning of Life”. But does Lola have what it takes to find that ever-elusive answer and share her wisdom with the audience before she runs out of time?
Liv Hall grabs Slade’s play and runs with it, dragging the audience along for the ride. Slade’s fast-paced writing is brilliant and with Hall’s delivery, hitting every comical moment – and there are many of them. Hall expels ferocious and authentic energy in the role, which circumnavigates its way around each seat, infecting the audience. They’re here for Lola’s journey, and they’re staying.
Hall magically brings the varying characters Lola interacts with to life, in gait and accent; we get to know them personally, and we come to feel the pain of a mother with a terminally ill daughter. It’s Hall’s delivery of the more sombre moments of the play, which pack a punch, hitting the audience hard. There are no jokes here. Hall delivers these snippets with conviction and integrity, offering slower moments of reflection on the reality of Lola’s diagnosis.
Anna Yates design deserves special mention, a vibrant yellow stage to match Lola’s vivaciousness, marrying with props and costume to transport the audience into a teenager’s bedroom. A looming balloon of material hangs above the stage as the ever-present reminder that Lola’s time is finite, and it dangles as a heavyweight throughout the play.
Clever lighting from Jess Bernberg is another excellent pairing to the beautifully timed sound queues and carefully chosen music from George Dennis. Bernberg’s immersive lighting delightfully breaks the boundaries of what theatrical lighting can be; it’s new, contemporary, and it works perfectly in the round.
Lola’s monologue truly is ’a vinaigrette of despair poured over a salad of joy’, and the audience lap it up in plates full. A heart-thumping, belly-wrenching five-star play.
GLEE & ME runs at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, until Saturday, 30 October. £10 banquette seats are available.
Sophia Agnew works in Comms and Marketing after previously studying Drama and Theatre at the University of Hull and a brief stint performing herself. She now much prefers being part of the audience and working in a creative industry. She also has interests in events, house renovation, growing her book collection and finding the best bottomless brunch.