SAD, written by Victoria Willing and directed by Marie McCarthy, is now playing at Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre.
Referring to Seasonal Affective Disorder, it’s also a story of sadness more generally as four characters struggle to survive in a claustrophobic world of urban poverty and deprivation.
Having cooked a turkey on Christmas Day which killed her mother, Gloria has retreated to the attic where, sleeping on a dog’s bed, she insists on a shrunken and tragic life in her “hornet’s nest in the eaves”. Graham, her angry socialist husband with a history of alcoholism, struggles to get Gloria “to come downstairs and be a normal person”. Magda, Gloria’s best friend yearns to escape to her native Slovakia while battling local bureaucracy and burglary. And Daniel, Gloria’s seedy neighbour and occasional bloodless sex partner, disguises his inner unpleasantness in an unconvincing stream of liberal virtue signalling.
Trapped in a cycle of misery and anger, these four characters crash and collide in a series of largely painful encounters. Grief, guilt, nostalgia, disappointment and abuse of power are themes throughout. Despite the occasional shaft of sunlight, this is about a world where mere survival is the most that can be hoped for. There are some funny lines and lighter moments, but SAD never strays very far from its title.
The stage is well designed and the attic is convincing, literally and metaphorically, as a place for life’s debris rather than life’s pleasures. The play lacks a bit of structure – partly I suspect to reflect the messiness of life – and suffers from the occasional cliche, but some strong performances from Debra Baker, Kevin N Golding, Lucas Hare and Izabella Urbanowicz, see it through. The relationship between Gloria and Graham is particularly well drawn as two people in late middle age who understand that they are destined to stay together and have to cope with the ups and downs of life in an imperfect world.
SAD runs until 30 April in the Omnibus Theatre, 1 Clapham Common Northside, SW4 0QW. For further information go to www.omnibus-clapham.org