REVIEW: BIT OF SUNSHINE (Theatre 503) ★★★★
Bit of Sunshine is a one character play written by and featuring the ridiculously talented Nicole Zweiback. This play was the winner of the Best Play at the Lost Theatre One Act Festival, 2016.
The play concerns a gifted teenager, Kira who has an ambition to attend Oxford University. However, the eating disorder from which she suffers, takes over her life. She suffers from the twin modern day curses of Anorexia and Bulimia, or Ana Mia, as Kira almost lovingly refers to them. Kira discusses what the disease is like from a sufferers perspective, mostly concentrating on her hospital stay, but also as an acute observer of the suffering of others in the same boat.
This is not an easy play to watch; it is in parts funny but at times harrowing. Sufferers of this particularly twentieth century illness are not the best at looking at their situation logically. Society can look at the sufferers with less than complete sympathy and often find it difficult to know the best way of conversing with them, even if they feel the sympathy.
The author prepared for the writing of this play by talking to sufferers and by recalling her own struggles. The play did contain some criticism of the inconsiderate way hospitals handle patients with eating disorders, but it should be recognised that this is taken from a quite narrow band of experience.
It is likely that greater discussion of mental health problems would be beneficial, and about eating disorders in particular. Ana and Mia are less talked about than say, the more celebrity endorsed bipolar disorder or depression, but sufferers are no less deserving of help.
The play was finely acted and written by Nicole Zweiback, co-directed by Katie Coull and Ed Theakston, original score by Dylan Allcock and lighting and sound also by Ed Theakston. The, predominantly young, audience thoroughly enjoyed the play which earned a well deserved standing ovation. After, the team held a discussion which touched on both mental illness and the structure of the play. The team proved to be open, friendly, intelligent and charming.
Theatre 503 is a small venue located above the Latchmere Pub, London, it is comfortable and intimate and is said to be the smallest theatre in the world to have won an Olivier award (for The Mountaintop). The stated aim of the theatre is to provide a flagship new writing venue committed to producing bold, brave new plays. More power to it’s elbow say I.
This may not be the first production to consider eating disorders but you will need to go a long way to find a more powerful one. Watch out for Nicole Zweiback in future, she has great things ahead of her.
Reviewed by Graham Archer
Photo: Jamie Scott-Smith