Lockdown review: Sary (Reading Fringe)

Sary is a powerful play from Different Theatre, now showing at the Reading Fringe following successful runs last year at the Brighton and Edinburgh fringes. It is a deeply evocative monologue for two Sarys, the older played by Sharon Drain, the younger played by Rebecca Jones.

Based on a simple set (designed by writer/director Sam Chittenden), the women start either side of a black curtained stage, eventually morphing into one as they mimic actions and talk together. Sometimes they say the same lines, together, sometimes their own stories.

Together and apart, weaving the story together through the elements. A folk tale, a sense of the horror of life, of loss. Chittenden’s script takes the suggestive threads from the 19th century tale of Sary Weaver and brings her back into the world.

Sharon Drain and Rebecca Jones in Sary
Sharon Drain and Rebecca Jones in Sary

Drain and Jones are excellent performers, with a clear rapport and a similiarity of spirit which makes us believe they are one and the same, once life bruises and chafes. They bring the softness of expectation with them as well as the grit of resignation to what fate deals them.

Shape-shifting, female sexuality and power, and strength come together in the Sussex countryside. Chittenden’s language is that of verse and folk tales, of stories passed from mother to daughter, of the threats from nature and the elements.

These two Sarys are magnetic. You cannot take your eyes from them. These are females from another time and space, their frankness and freedom reaches strongly into our more complex world.

Sharon Drain and Rebecca Jones in Sary
Sharon Drain and Rebecca Jones in Sary

As a filmed record of the show, it works well, with a head-on camera close enough to capture facial expressions. The sound (by Simon Scardanelli) is absolutely fine, with both speech and sound effects clearly audible. A sense of the lighting design is caught with the hint of autumn and the firelight.

Sary is available to watch on the Reading Fringe website until the end of August. Registration is free but you may donate to Different Theatre here.

Production photo credit: Different Theatre.