The Almighty Sometimes at Royal Exchange
The Almighty Sometimes : * * * * Royal Exchange Theatre
Anna (Norah Lopez Holden) is coming of age. Possibilities are unfurling in front of her and she’s ready to take control. However, she knows more about what’s in her bowl of cereal than what is in her medication and she is wondering, for the first time, how life might feel without the pills. But as Anna tries to distance herself from her doctor and the label that has defined her, her mother Renee (Julie Hesmondhalgh) isn’t ready to let go.
The Almighty Sometimes is not a comfortable watch, as it deals with one of our most pressing social issues – children’s mental health.
Rudd’s gripping production, which currently is debuting at The Royal Exchange, Manchester, explores many themes and emotions, but for me the feelings of tiredness, frustration, becoming overwhelmed and being brave are rooted in this story. Brave and courage as Anna tries to take back control and a mother compelled to protect her. But as the Director, Katy Rudd points out, the relationship between mother and teenager daughter on the cusp of adulthood is just as important as the other issues this production strongly addresses.
It is indeed an incredible new play and is unflinchingly honest, yet cleverly some delicate humour is woven through the journey.
The cast are superb. Holden really stands out with her magnificent fight and powerful performance and takes us through her unique experience, with one terrifying scene of being imprisoned in the maze of bright lights and electrical short circuits showing us what it must be like trying to cope inside Anna’s head. Hesmondhalgh plays her maternal role with skill, poise and understanding. Mike Noble (Oliver) plays the very youthful, well-meaning boyfriend with clarity and passion and Sharon Duncan-Brewster plays the very professional child Psychitarist Vivienne. However, it’s when the nuances and complexity of the mother-daughter relationship is explored that this production really comes alive. Together, Holden and Hesmondhalgh capture the complicated mixture of affection, tenderness, and dependency that can exist between a parent and their child.
The Almighty Sometimes is a stunning piece of theatre and the cast were thoroughly deserving of the standing ovation they received. The crisis surrounding children’s mental health is astounding and this piece of hard theatre makes its point very dramatically and leaves you questioning how our society chooses to look after our young people with mental health problems.
By Dean Thomas-Lowde for Canal St Online
The production runs at the Royal Exchange Theatre from 9 – 24 February.