Inset pic- Tom Stokes and Gabrielle Scawthorn in  Christopher Harley's BLOOD BANK. Featured pic- Gabrielle Scawthorn and Meredith Penman. Production photography by Clare Hawley
Inset pic- Tom Stokes and Gabrielle Scawthorn in Christopher Harley’s BLOOD BANK. Featured pic- Gabrielle Scawthorn and Meredith Penman. Production photography by Clare Hawley

The randomness of life…matters of chance…that we are all living in a kind of fog….that we need to live in the moment.. to deal with the lousy stuff that life deals us as best we can, and make the very best of those  good moments/times when we do get them…not to hold on too tightly to things as they will pass…This was what  I felt Christopher Harley was saying with his eloquent, easy to relate to new play which is given an impressive first production by Antony Skuse and a very fine cast and production team.

Gabrielle Scawthorn plays the main character; a restless, kooky, feisty young woman, Abbey. Gabrielle is charismatic in the role, playing the kind of character that one could imagine a young Goldie Hawn playing. Abbey carries and drives the action of the play. My feeling was that she was the author’s voice in the play.

The play draws the audience in right from the opening scene. We are in a hospital waiting room. Abbey is sitting next to Mikey, a withdrawn looking young man who is ensconced in reading one of the waiting rooms’ magazines that have probably been lying around for a year or more…

She decides to flirt, cajole, provoke Mikey to fill in the waiting time. At first Mikey is dead-pan, unimpressed but slowly he gets involved. Abbey is leading this dance, and Mikey is following.

As well as Abbey and Mikey we get to know two other characters during the course of the play. There’s Mikey’s brother, Justin. The reason why he is at the Blood Bank. Mikey goes there to give blood to his ailing brother.

Very impressively, Tom  Stokes manages the roles of  both brothers, helped by  Skuse’s very clear, smooth scene changes.

Meredith Penman rounds out the cast playing the Nurse. We see her frenetically running around at the start and the feeling is that she is going to be a bit of a superfluous presence during the play. Not true. By journey’s end we do get to know her more than a little and the ways in which she copes with her challenging job and what life throws her way…..

Skuse’s  production team add much to the effect/power of the play. Tobhiyah Stone Feller’s compact set works well. Nicholas Higgins’ lighting design is clear and effective. A musician himself Harley contributes an edgy soundscape.

Much praise goes to  Tim Hope for his audio visual design work. One of the play’s lasting images is the evocative depiction of tiny snowflakes falling. Wanting to see the snow is one of Abbey’s constant refrains during the play.

A final note. Remember to grab one of the programs that are available as you enter the theatre.  There are some great rehearsal photos. Best of all, in his director’s note, Skuse references a poem by the great lyrical poet E E Cummings to describe the play.

Take some time out to visit the BLOOD BANK before it moves on. BLOOD BANK is playing the Ensemble Theatre until Sunday 22nd November.