Tilling by Six Lips

Set in the rather beautiful surroundings of St Nicholas Fields' environmental centre, a perfect choice for this piece, Six Lips 'Tilling' invites us into the greenhouse of one woman, in the recent aftermath of her husband's death. The intimate 30(ish) seat venue provided the team with the perfect backdrop for this deeply personal piece, which felt all the more invasive as the story continued.

Klimaszewska's script is one that pays great attention to detail, demonstrating that she has a remarkable ear for dialogue. The conversations face to face and over the phone seem to have come so naturally that almost every moment seemed to resonate in some way, shape or form with the spectators. Wallace has also paid time and attention in directing the cast of three, in order to do justice to the delicate writing. The realisation of Martha's character, played by Lindsay Smith, was brought out so naturally, and out of the three, Smith was the one who I felt showed the most consistency in performance. Unfortunately for the characters of Helen and Judy, played by Katy Divine and Janice Barnes Newton, the performances weren't as up to scratch. Divine, at times, seemed a little self-aware, and generally some of the acting felt forced. This isn't to say that they were without their strengths. Divine's monologue in the second half was delivered wonderfully, without any inhibition whatsoever. That being said, whilst the monologue in isolation was great, it was out of place for the rest of the script, as it was without any previous build-up. The character unloaded her bottled-up torment on the mother, confessing her anger at the mother's moping when she (the daughter) had allegedly been trying to help anyway she can...oddly, the reality was that she spent a large chunk of the first act eating grapes, and putting forward a case to get tropical fish. Again the problem wasn't those moments, as they were enjoyable to watch, but put together it felt like we'd missed something fairly crucial.

©Six Lips

One thing that frustrated me, was the time frame of the play, as there were no costume changes, despite it covering more than 24 hours - this was more noticeable, though less excusable through the character of the neighbour, Judy. it just seemed a little clumsy, given the finer details in the rest of the piece. Also, whilst I liked the brief interaction with the audience just before the interval, I didn't see that need as it was a convention only used at that moment. With regards to pace, the opening was a little slow, but I can't deny that I was engaged throughout. I couldn't help but watch every movement closely, reading between the lines and absorbing every pause. The second half however, was much faster and came to an abrupt ending, feeling somewhat anti-climactic, and leaving us with a sense of it being unfinished. More balance between the two halves would have been preferable.

Still, Tilling is a lovely, subtle, realistic portrayal of coping with grief, parenting children, and dealing with people in difficult circumstances. Its definitely worth a watch, and shows great promise for Klimaszewska as a writer, and Six Lips as a company.



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