dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
New play raises questions about suicide
Winsome Pinnock's play begins with an act of self-destruction as Sonny ends his life by jumping in front of a train. But Sonny's act doesn't just destroy himself – it also has massive consequences for other people, those he loves and strangers, and it's these consequences which One Under explores.
Switching back and forth between Sonny's last hours and the days and weeks after his death, we see the people who mattered to him. There's Christine (Clare-Louise English), a lonely laundrette worker, who he takes on a date. Fragile and with her own issues around self-worth, Christine wants to have fun for an evening but discovers Sonny is a much more complicated date than expected.
There's Nella (Shenagh Govan) who adopted Sonny when he was a child and who loves him as only a mother can. Now she's struggling with grief and loss and with the belief that she should have been able to prevent the death. And there's his sister Zoe (Evlyne Oyedokun) who is torn between sibling closeness and sibling rivalry even when her brother has gone.
And then there's Cyrus (Stanley J Browne) the driver whose train hit Sonny. Consumed by guilt, Cyrus sets out to discover just why Sonny chose to end his life and, in doing so, meets the other characters and hears their stories. Set against their individual determinations to see the truth as they prefer to tell it, Cyrus's search for redemption is no easy task.
As the story unfolds and those who care about Sonny are left agonising over why he took his own life, we see Sonny (Reece Pantry) gradually unravelling. Pitching backwards and forwards between reality and delusion, Sonny also bounces from one character to another, pulling them all into his life and his death.
Directed by new Birmingham Repertory Theatre deputy artistic director Amit Sharma, One Under is performed at the theatre's smaller space The Door which ensures the audience is also pulled into the story. Amelia Jane Hankin's design concentrates the action into one space where simply moving a chair from one side to another takes us from a hotel room to Nella's home.
Produced by Graeae Theatre Company and Theatre Royal Plymouth, One Under reminds us of how our connections with others, whether deeply rooted and long-lived or fleeting, impact on those others and ourselves. As the plot intertwines, we ask ourselves if any of these characters could have prevented Sonny's fateful jump and we see them struggle with the knowledge that they didn't.
One Under plays Birmingham Rep until November 23 and then plays Salisbury Playhouse and Arcola Theatre in London. See graeae.org/our-work/one-under for more information.