By Jennifer Rose
As someone who is not skilled when it comes to anything mathematical, the title of the fourth play in the Everyman Company’s 2017 season- The Sum- made me think the worst. However, as the expression goes, you should never judge a book (or in this case, a play) by its cover.
(Emily Hughes and Laura Dos Santos, Photograph by Stephen Vaughan)
The Sum proved to be close to home, in the literal sense, as it was set in Liverpool in 2017. Maths is just part of Eve’s daily life, as she makes clear when she says “I’m a numbers person. Always have been. Give me a sum, I can do it”. However, in the two hours and thirty-minute duration of the play, we learn that (in life) there are times when things just don’t add up.
The play begins in a home furnishing store, where the orange apron-clad workers use their sense of humour to get through their days. Eve Brennan, played by Laura Dos Santos, finds herself cooped up in the firm’s office- using her gift for numbers to help her boss Alan (Patrick Brennan) along.
This seemingly ordinary, but nevertheless comfortable, setting is interrupted by harsh austerity. This means that hours are cut and so is their pay, ultimately leading to the closure of the store and the loss of jobs- meaning Eve must now use her skillset for an altogether different purpose: keeping her family afloat.
The play with songs, directed by Gemma Bodinetz, displays the unfairness of life- as Eve and her family, by no fault of their own, find their lives are falling apart. Both Eve and her partner, Danny (Liam Tobin) end up out of work at the same time. To top it off, Eve’s daughter Lisa (Emily Hughes) is having a hard time with bullies at school and Eve’s mother Iris (Pauline Daniels) seems to be displaying signs of dementia.
Despite the dismal subject matter, the songs soften the play’s tension throughout. These songs, my favourite being Magical Times, convey both hopelessness and hopefulness that things (no matter how bad they may be) will get better.
What I think ultimately made the play was that it was effectively lead by the female characters: Eve, Lisa and Iris. Though Lizzie Nunnery’s plays centres on women’s struggle, like other social realist plays (Shelagh Delaney’s 1958 play A Taste of Honey, for example), there is also a sense of community within the play which is displayed through the protesting in the play’s final scene.
(Laura Dos Santos and Pauline Daniels, Photograph by Stephen Vaughan)
Overall, the play communicates hardship and hopelessness but- through the emotional songs and fantastic acting of all the cast- it conveys the importance of keeping faith and standing together in the face of mounting problems, something which I feel is incredibly important for today’s audience given the political climate which we are currently in.
(The Everyman Company in The Sum, photograph by Stephen Vaughan)