Review Es & Flo, Wales Millennium Centre by Charlotte Hall.

 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

There was a very vibrant atmosphere when we walked into the studio to see Es and Flo. The music they put on before it started had quite a Reggae feel and influence, and the set just blew me away. It was so beautifully done, because you could see the home and decor influences of the 80s, but you could tell it wasn’t set in the 80s, it had a bit of a modern feel. The set design by Libby Watson was amazing, in how they thought of every detail. There was a picture of Jamaica above the fridge, they had a kettle that they used many times during the show, and the milk from the fridge, they had wine on the kitchen counter, they had a sofa and a chair which had a mismatched feel and the books that lined the shelves behind them made up the intricate details and gave hints to the characters; they had a lot of travel books and a Spanish dictionary above a Collins English dictionary. They had an older-looking radio that was cleverly used at the start of the play, and the whole piece was very intimate and real, and the start saw Es putting on the kettle for tea, turning the radio on and letting it play something to do with the Conservative Party, and the opening line was ‘F***ing Tories’, which broke the ice in a funny and clever way, while introducing the characters’ beliefs and values.

Another thing that was very cleverly done with the set/ space was between scenes they would show images and sound clips from Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, because the characters first met there and they stood up for what they believed in. One of the songs they kept repeating the tune of was Frère Jacques, and the lyrics that they/ the women at the peace camp had sung were ‘we are women, we are strong, we say no, to the bomb’ and I think using that sound was connecting and emotional on another level. They projected these images onto a black curtain just above the stage, and in the second part, after using the projection to transition between scenes, they drew back the curtain to reveal another stage space for a hospital scene, which was so cleverly done because they didn’t have to change any of the set and it was still very much intimate and a slice of their lives.

The general story and the characters were so well created, that you felt emotionally invested in each one of their lives, and you could imagine their stories before, and possibly after, the plane that we were invited into. Even the character who seemed the most judgemental and nastiest character, had changed and you saw the life she had outside of Es and Flo and felt very sorry for her.

One of the best parts of the show was showing a lesbian couple on stage, which I think invited a wider range of audiences, and not being afraid to not just kiss, but ‘snog’ in front of the audience as well! Another part I loved about it, which links to society being judgemental of gay couples in the 1980s was that there were 5 characters in the cast, all women, so we didn’t actually have the perspective of a male character although two were mentioned (Es’s ex-husband and her son, who was Catherine’s husband), which I thought was very clever.

Some of the best shows I have seen have been in ‘small’, intimate spaces, and I think that’s because you really get immersed in the show because it’s so close to you, and you can empathise with the characters a lot more that way.

I really think that I have just witnessed a truly brilliant piece of theatre (and you could too!) that will become very popular, and reach far and wide. Not only did it have a good story, curtesy of the Playwright, Jennifer Lunn but the characters were multi-dimensional, the Director, Susie McKenna had a great vision as well as the set designer, and every other factor contributed to it being an amazing show, so I urge you to hurry down to the Wales Millennium Centre while you still can.

You can find out more about the production and book tickets here

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