Theatre Review - Till The Stars Come Down

Lisa McGrillis in Till The Stars Come Down [Manuel Harlan]

ONE working-class family from Mansfield gather for a wedding. Sylvia (Sinead Matthews) is marrying Marek (Marc Wootton), a Polish immigrant who has made good over here. Over the course of 24 hours we learn about their private grief, repressed desires, betrayals and resentment.

Till The Stars Come Down opens with the women getting ready. Beth Steel’s beautifully observed play hones in on the relationship between Sylvia, her two sisters and their Aunty Carol (Lorraine Ashbourne), a larger-than-life character who the audience love – she says what she thinks and drinks to excess.

There are sibling rivalries between the two middle sisters – Hazel (Lucy Black), mother of two daughters – Leanne (Ruby Stokes) and Sarah (Maggie Livermore) – and Maggie (Lisa McGrillis) who the year before abruptly moved away from the family fold.

The older men hark back to a time when they worked down pit. Carol’s husband Pete (Philip Whitchurch) refuses to talk to his brother Tony (Alan Williams), the women’s dad, because of an incident decades earlier.

Now everyone, including Hazel’s husband John (Derek Riddell), has to compete with eastern Europeans for whatever poorly paid work is going at the local warehouse.

Marek recognises that he is an outsider at his own wedding and that his success is resented by the community (and members of the family), but refuses to apologise – he’s worked hard to get where he is.

The laughs come thick and fast before prejudice and violence rear their ugly heads. But at its heart, this is a play about loss – the three sisters are still mourning the death of their mum.

Played in the round, it’s sensitively directed by Bijan Sheibani, who makes us feel part of the extended wedding party. Samal Blak’s set is delightfully simple – an Astroturf floor and suspended disco ball imaginatively employed. Warmly recommended.

Until March 16

Originally publihsed by Westminster Extra