Now that the new baby’s been born, a sister (Leona Allen) has to move herself (and her extensive collection of hats) into her big brother’s (Craig Gazey) room. Unhappy about this turn of events, the brother is keen to enforce the conditions he’s negotiated for their cohabitation – namely that his sister and her belongings don’t touch an inch of their supposedly shared floor (“You on your bed, that’s what I agreed!” he chides). Written and directed by award-winning theatremaker Sarah Argent, the Polka Theatre production explores similar themes to her 2015 show Grandad, Me and Teddy Too – both capture the tensions and triumphs of family members learning to live alongside one another.
Over 40 minutes, the siblings’ relationship is carefully unpacked, much like the sister’s possessions from the boxes she’s brought with her. The brother and his trusty sidekick, a stuffed gecko called Gecko, are initially adamant that the sister’s presence should impinge minimally on their routines. This resolve is gradually worn down as they discover surprising commonalities, from their mistrust of the new baby to a mutual love of the ‘Pirate in shark-infested water’ game. The siblings learn to share a physical space by co-occupying an imaginative one: Aaron J. Dootson’s lighting design and Greg Hall’s music combine to powerfully illustrate complete absorption in their imaginative play. The thing which best helps them co-exist in the room is forgetting it, as they disappear into their games together.
The production calls to mind La Baracca’s Little Red Riding Hood, which also focuses on the push and pull in families, as a brother and sister play out the famous fairytale. Their tussles and negotiations over the retelling of the story say so much about sibling relationships – the two are deeply competitive but rigidly fair, often furious but reluctantly accommodating, and will go on aggravating each other and playing together for as long as they can. The only story is Little Red Riding Hood itself: aside from that the production is just a slice of their life, a moment in time. My Brother, My Sister and Me, on the other hand, has a clear narrative arc, which demands development and resolution that, for some, might be a little too neat.
Though their bedroom is initially a battleground, the wintery scene outside gives My Brother, My Sister and Me a cosy, cuddly, Christmassy character. As we head into the festive season, this is an aptly-timed production for a period so associated with both family and forced intimacy.
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