I have seen a couple of performances by the Human Story Theatre group, or at least half of the cast under the guise of SatMatCo, so I went into Flat 73 with high expectations of both the writing and performances. Sub-titled 'A one hour play with music about loneliness and the Samaritans' one might say it's not really the high-octane Saturday night viewing that one might find in the local multiplex, but the (sadly small) audience at the Corn Exchange in Witney were treated to another brilliant show from this new and very talented troupe.
With a minimal set, costume and lighting the company provides accessible performances surrounding issues of health and social care. Flat 73 focuses on a block of flats where, as is the way in modern society, nobody speaks to their neighbours, and each of the four tenants we are introduced to is battling their own kind of loneliness. There's Beryl (Gaye Poole), who was widowed about a year ago and hasn't seen her daughter in that time, despite leaving her voicemail messages. Then we have Simon (Kevin Tomlinson) a young man with learning disabilities who was recently sharing his flat with someone who has had to move into a care home. There's also Chelsea (Abigail Hood), a single mum struggling to cope with baby Albee on her own, and finally Laura (Amy Enticknap) who works for The Samaritans but is plagued by her own demons, which the audience is informed of through flashbacks during the show.
While the subject of loneliness may not be one that would immediately pique the average theatre-goer's interest, I would urge everyone to keep an eye on this theatre company. They bring difficult subjects to life and provoke discussion on ways in which they can be tackled. The show was brilliantly performed, with three of the cast switching smoothly between different characters. Kevin Tomlinson, who also directs, is a ray of sunshine as Simon, and I was literally beaming up at him everytime he got up to do his S Club 7 'flashmob', or at least try to. Each of the performances of the main characters broke my heart a little, so real was their portrayal of the loneliness they were experiencing. Amy Enticknap's portrayal of Laura was spellbinding and heartbreaking, as we see her as she is now and begin to understand why her life has taken this turn.
The live music was provided by ARne Richards and provided a lovely richness to the performance, accentuating the mood of each scene and providing an extra sensory layer to the performance. With a Q&A session with the cast and a guest speaker from Age UK at the end of the show, overall this was a very interesting, enlightening and ultimately heartwarming performance.