‘Writing is a kind of therapy for me’ explains Elle O Rorke ‘a half lived life is no life at all’.
‘Nowhere warm’ is a highly personal play, centering on the family dynamics of suicide victim Emily. Although hospital dramas can often be a little over dramatic, I did appreciate the depth of emotion that both the plot and the actors brought to the play. Trapped in a coma, Emily is forced to struggle with the events of her life. As a high flying career girl, Emily becomes deliberately isolated from her family, pushing each of her problems behind her. However the arrival of her younger sister Celia, her mother and her boyfriend Daniel at her hospital bed- each with their own opinions to air, gives her nowhere to hide.
The cast of ‘Nowhere warm’ were very entertaining to watch. They held the thread of tension throughout the play well, managing to navigate sudden switches of emotion from rage to sorrow. It was this well crafted fluctuation of moods that kept the play moving believably. The character of Harriet, was a particularly inspired creation, and was played excellently by Katie Sawhill. Harriet is also a coma victim of an attack, but quite the reverse of Emily. Whilst Emily is somewhat responsible for her actions, and has the hope of living again, Harriet cannot be saved. Her purpose in the play is to provide a welcome poignant; but also comic interlude, such as in her ‘duck’ scene.
Elle O Rorke’s characters were brought to life in further depth by the simple technique of ‘hot seating’. In a question and answer style interview, the audience were able to see the deeper problems of Emily’s boyfriend wishes for a closer relationship with her, and her mother; a widower who gave birth to Emily at a young age. The actors really warmed to this, adopting the attitudes of their characters well and leading the audience to question, ‘do we feel sorry for Emily or not?’ and ‘Is anyone really to blame for the way life unfolds?’
One thing I was confused by was the role of Elle, the third coma victim whose cleverly played and often witty character is partly responsible for bringing Emily to the realisation that she wants to live. Somehow involved in the car crash with Emily, I took Elle to be an accompanying friend or an alter ego, a double of the darker side of Emily. But I didn’t feel this was fully clear. Also, I found the ending quite clichéd. With the happy awakening of Emily, the bedside reunion scene with Emily’s family didn’t hold as much power as the earlier parts of the play somehow. With her life back Emily is free to escape the hospital boundaries that have confined her for the full length of the play. As a firm believer in happy or at least resolved ending, I would have liked the Emily’s entrance back to life to have the same energy as her decision to ‘keep breathing’ did.
However for a person who finds hospital dramas depressing and morbid, I was impressed ‘Nowhere Warm’ was a moving exploration of grief, relationships and the preciousness of the life. The directors and cast have made a terrific effort to pull together a fantastic play. They all must be proud of themselves.