Review - Es & Flo - Wales Millennium Centre

Es & Flo - Wales Millennium Centre

Es and Flo, a new play written by Jennifer Lunn is all about history, the history of the Women of Greenham Common, the history of a relationship and history repeating itself. It also muses on the importance of memories, and what happens when those memories start to disappear only to reappear at the wrong time and in the wrong context.

Esme and Florence are two women who met during the protests at Greenham Common in the 1980’s, where their friendship develops into love, and at the start of the play we meet them when they have been partners for over 30 years. However, they have been hiding their relationship in plain sight, particularly for the benefit of Esme’s son Peter (who we never see) who is now grown up and married to Catherine, and living near London, whilst Esme lives in Wales. Esme feels she has let him down, and refuses to be open about her relationship with Flo as she feels responsible for the breakdown of her marriage and its impact on her son.

We first see Esme on her Birthday, opening cards and enjoying her special day, but it isn’t long before it becomes obvious something is not quite as it should be, and we see the creeping signs of the onset of dementia, with Es’ forgetfulness becoming more and more prominent, causing her anger and confusion. Flo starts to become concerned as their lack of openness about what their relationship really is may have a devastating impact on both their futures. The dynamic between them is tested again when Esme’s son hires a carer, Beata, to take care of Esme, and Flo starts to feel side lined and dismissed. However, through her daughter Kasia, Beata starts to develop a strong relationship with the two women and begins to realise what they mean to one another.

The group of five actresses in the play are superb, each one conveying their stories by cleverly revealing their true characters little by little as the play progresses. Liz Crowther plays Esme brilliantly, and captures all the different aspects of her character, as well as poignantly expressing the frightening nature of dementia. Doreen Blackstock plays the stoic Flo, and we clearly see her panic as she feels her one true love slipping away from her, desperately trying to convince herself, as well as the people around her, that everything is fine. Adrianna Pavlovska as Beata is warm and likeable but also accurately conveys the pain of hiding the truth from your family. Michelle McTiernan as Catherine has the biggest journey of all, starting the play as quite a condescending character who sweeps in to carry out the commands of her husband, but who by the end of the play has grown and developed the courage to leave her husband, echoing the experience of her Mother in Law. I must also make mention of Reesie Dupe, who played Kasia and what an assured performance she gave for such a young actress.

The women are also well served by a very clever set design by Libby Watson and well directed by Susie McKenna.

This is a very thought-provoking play which has you considering changing attitudes to same sex relationships, as well as family dynamics, and what is important when changing circumstances start to erode the security you relied on and took for granted. It has humour and pathos and many important points to make, and will leave you thinking about the journey of life and love in all its joy and complexity.

The production is running at the Weston Studio in the Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday the 13th of May. Tickets are available here

Es & Flo will be at the Kiln Theatre, London from the 5th - 24th June 2023.  Details and tickets here:

***** stars

Beverley Anne Harris

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Photo credit: Kirsten McTernan