By Flossie Waite
A Rosemary Harris Theatre Production in association with Apples and Snakes & Nuffield
Half Moon Theatre
11am, 3rd May 2014
“Time is a boat that carries me further and further from my mother.” Jean is seven and a half, and one of many children in the 1950s whose mothers, widowed by the war, struggled with single parenthood. To give them a rest, Jean, Ronnie and 7000 others were taken into care homes, but when their mums came to collect them, they were told the children had been adopted. In reality, they were sailing to Australia, promised a new family and life that would never come true. Through poetry, One Way Ticket offers a powerful portrayal of the British Child Migrants’ scandal. Handling this troubling chapter in British and Australian history with dignity, the sophisticated production sees the painful and frustrated memories of a 66-year old woman become compelling viewing for young audiences.
The narrative is framed by modern-day, grown-up, Australian-sounding Jean (Rosemary Harris). Recalling the past, she shares the storytelling with her younger self, Jeannie (Sophie Rose), and Jeannie’s fellow passenger Ronnie (Justin Coe). In a production about a voyage, unsurprisingly the audience is also on a journey, across many miles and plenty of time, but this is incorporated skillfully and without force. Following Jean, Jeannie and Ronnie out of the foyer and into the theatre as the boat sets sail, the seated audience are surrounded and involved by the performers as they become the shipful of children on an adventure to Australia. There were some lovely moments of interaction here, as Ronnie picked audience members to be the mates he lovingly described. Jeannie and Ronnie’s enthusiasm, brimming with energy, is equal parts entertaining and devastating, as the sea which was filled with possibilities grows tiring and un-nerving after weeks of travel: “I’ve been feeling seasick and I’m also sick of sea!”
Whilst the black-box studio was almost empty of set, it was filled with story. The play was, as Jean says, about the stories we tell to help us cope. Jeannie makes things up, pronouncing that she is a mermaid or a princess, and her mother a magician’s assistant, and a baker. At the same time, it becomes clear that stories so often don’t do what we want them to – there are loose ends and unanswered questions – and One Way Ticket never shies from that.
The poetry is phenomenal, full of puns and personality. The rhyme becomes increasingly necessary, keeping emotion tightly packed together, buoying everyone along with the bobbing of the rhythm and the sea, and forcing the story on as it gets sadder and sadder. Through language, it struck a chord with something that cannot be put into words, and that’s why everyone should buy a (one way) ticket and go.
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