I watched ‘Autumn Showers’ whilst nursing a hangover and, safe to say, this play got very real with me very quickly. At times flawed but always sincere, it is a timely and personal insight into student life and examines the varied and profound challenges that this very particular experience poses.
‘Autumn Showers’ follows first year student Sofia (played by Katie Booth and voiced by Lily Bailes) as she attempts to come to terms with the challenges of moving away from home, and how this change has affected her relationship with her mother Katherine (played by Megan Peace).
Dealing with pertinent issues of mental health, sexuality, alcohol abuse and more broadly a sense of identity, I admire the ambition of this play. Its strength is in the breadth of its discussion, immersing the viewer in the varied trials of being away from home for the first time. Sofia states “I don’t know what came first, the drinking or the emptiness” and Alexandra Hogg (writer and director) is right, it’s sometimes hard to see the cause and the effect when everything feels like chaos. For Sofia its not just the alcohol or being away from home or her coming out; its everything at once, and I think Hogg has been very astute in recognising that sensation for a student.
Its strength is in the breadth of its discussion, immersing the viewer in the varied trials of being away from home for the first time
Hogg’s writing in moments captures highly intimate and universal moments which feel piercingly personal. Sofia’s mother Katherine asks “are you taking the vitamins I sent?” with thinly veiled anxiety and strained joviality. Sofia pours out the last of a bottle of milk with the dismayed look of a student who knows that someone has been raiding her fridge. The characters interact with the touching sincerity of those who know the very bones of each other.
In the sections of footage of Sofia in her home of her eating cereal, or of her on her phone, video editors Alicia Conte, Lauren Brady and Charlie Finney have done a wonderful job of capturing a sense of intimacy. These moments feel incredibly universal in their ability to capture a slice of student domesticity and are the strength of the play.
The characters interact with the touching sincerity of those who know the very bones of each other
While I understand first-hand the challenges of lockdown constraints on a production, I felt there were moments in ‘Autumn Showers’ where these constraints felt obvious. Stock footage made up the majority of footage where I felt more original material would have been more evocative. Saying this, the dynamism of Lily Bailes’ voice acting was enough to keep any repeated footage engaging.
Huge credit should also be given to Katie Booth on whom a large share of the success rested. Her performance was entirely believable and resoundingly empathetic and the result was a rounded and intriguing character in Sofia.
Overall, ‘Autumn Showers’ has a quiet poignance, but falls victim to COVID restraints. Its ambition seems tethered by constraints in sourcing sound and footage, resulting in an outcome which occasionally feels stunted. I would however highly recommend giving it a watch. It’s a play with a lot of heart and sincerity, and its moments of cutting insight will, I’m sure, be of consolation to a lot of students who find themselves portrayed in Sofia.
Featured image courtesy of Nottingham New Theatre. No changes made to this image.
In-article images courtesy of @autumnshowers.nnt via instagram.com. No changes made to these images.
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