Jess’ (Georgia May Hughes) 2004 bedroom is instantly reminiscent for a teenage millennial – the coloured CD player; the posters of bands, cut out of Smash Hits magazine, stuck on the wall; even a sneaky bottle of wine or pack of Smirnoff Ice hidden behind the bed for a pre-house party. Like his direction, Scott Ellis’ set for Lucy Light is real and balanced – the nostalgia is tinged with both happy memories and the sadness for a time gone by. Both Ellis and writer Sarah Milton mirror each other beautifully here – Lucy Light is a show that contrasts the joyful humour of friendship with the sorrow of disease & loss. Milton’s writing effortlessly walks a tightrope between the two.

While the narrative revolves around the dreaded C-word, Lucy Light is equally a story about growing up and discovering yourself. Lucy (Bebe Sanders) has inherited the BRCA gene, a genetic mutation that drastically increases the risks of both breast and ovarian cancer. As a teenager, she has to watch as her mum undergoes chemotherapy and succumbs to the illness. But Milton skims over the detail of this – understandably, as this is a story about Lucy and Jess who are thinking about other things at 15, mainly boys and finishing high school.

Georgia May Hughes & Bebe Sanders (image courtesy of Hannah Ellis)

As Lucy and Jess respectively, Sanders and Hughes form an instant stage chemistry that only strengthens as Lucy Light progresses. They perfectly capture the immature ups and downs of teenage life, sharing in hidden secrets and long-established mannerisms particular to their friendship. But then, as sudden as breathing, the duo switches into a more serious discussion that develops and grows up as they do. Lucy opts for a preventative surgery, a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy – it reduces the risk of developing breast cancer by removing the breast tissue. But in such a turbulent time of life when teenagers turn into adults and start to develop their identity, how difficult must it be to remove a part of yourself that makes you female, in many ways changing your very nature before it has ever fully galvanised?

It’s these kinds of questions that Milton poses with exceptional intelligence and sensitivity throughout Lucy Light, juxtaposing them instantly with the hilarious comedy of drunken nights out and hungover mornings. Ellis’ direction complements this with tenderness and an eye for detail – little touches in blocking, narrative emphasis and expertly judged pace layer the production with emotional depth and allow the audience to feel part of the women’s lives. Together, Milton and Ellis set in place all the ingredients for Sanders and Hughes to mould into a truly beautiful show.

Georgia May Hughes (image courtesy of Hannah Ellis)

Sanders and Hughes take full advantage of their characters. Both are naturally funny as performers, the relationship and rapport established from the first line. Despite Lucy (Sanders) being the one that has to grapple with such heart-breaking decisions, Jess (Hughes) is equally affected by the fallout. Both actors connect best with their audiences when addressing them directly, breaking the fourth wall to convey their inner concerns in blunt deliveries that pin us to our seats with searing honesty and gut-wrenching concern.

Lucy Light is a play about cancer. But it’s more a play about friendship, solidarity and grappling with identity in an ever-shifting world. The final scene, with both women sitting on the beach, musing to themselves, is the epitome of this exquisite production that best conveys the core of its intentions. Milton’s narrative prose is humorous, self-reflective and hopeful in the face of adversity. Despite the potential for heartache in the future, the overriding message is to live for today.

 

★★★★☆

To read more about Lucy Light, which plays TheatreN16 until 7 October 2017, follow the theatre on Twitter (@TheatreN16) or visit the website – www.theatren16.co.uk

Follow the link to an interview with writer, Sarah Milton.