Sometimes the harshest of situations can extinguish the most fiery of family dramas. In the case of bereavement, this can truly test the limits of a family’s circumstances and beliefs. A family can either become stronger in their bond, or disband and live fractured lives. Cue Ché Walkers, The Etienne Sisters. A tale of bereavement, sisterhood and disheartning truths.
An abandoned, cavernous stage presents itself as the curtains are drawn. The drip drop of water trickling down accompanies the spacious, white brick walled setting. Nikki Yeoh, dressed in an elegant, floor length ball gown welcomes, offering a glamorourous juxtaposition to the gritty and emotional battles that lay ahead. Her effortless, speak easy, jazz inspired set accompanies the opening credits that play upstage. Music is the life force within the production, the link that ties all three of the protagonists together.
The sisterly trio, consisting of Bo, Tree and Ree contributes an edgy dynamic to the world of female roles, in particular in the case of Bo, an estranged family member who finds herself reuniting with her fellow sisters to mourn the loss of their mother. Allyson Ava Brown offers a considered yet humourous performance as Bo, an individual oblvious to the pain and destruction she leaves behind, however I’m left wanting to feel a greater sense of chaos as she enters the stage. Nina Toussaint-White‘s warrior Tree constantly is on guard for battle, her love for her sister Ree is in no doubt called to question. Toussaint-White’s performance roots the production, she’s the mother, the father, the protector. Although she’s defiant, there is a flicker of relatability as I’m sure we all can think of a friend or family member who takes on the world and takes on makes it their duty to defend those they care about.
Ché Walker’s script teems with bluntness. All three cast members sail the lyrical wave, which in turn gives the production its identity. A tale of a family bereavement reuniting an estranged relative with her family is a recipe for dramatic success. Although she is alluded to, the sister’s late mother needs a stronger stage presence. Even though she is no longer with us, I am left intrigued as to just how prevalent their mother was in their lives. The narrative feels too safe, and this goes for the characters presented too. This show has the potential to spark off dramatic fireworks, however issues raised feel like they are resolved calmly and quickly.
Anoushka Lucas‘ musical direction, with the addition of Sheila Atim‘s songwriting is a stand out feature. Whether they’re singing in perfect harmony, or belting out solo numbers, the musical accompaniment beautifully intergrates into the action rather than just being there for the sake of it. 3/5
Review written by Lucy Basaba.
The Etienne Sisters is currently showing at the Theatre Royal Stratford East until Saturday 3rd October. For more information on the production, visit here…