53Two, Manchester; Wednesday 28th March, 2018
Separated by just two years and both enjoying twenty-something life to the full, sisters Marnie and Jen share the closest of close bonds. Possibly a little too close though, as they seem to spend most of their time chatting away to each other in any ladies toilet that they can find.
Both sisters seem to be aware of their behaviour, in the opening scenes, as they seek refuge from potential suitors George and Michael – a tediously dull duo with whom they are on a double date, the gossiping sisters contemplate the wrongs and rights of taking time out to have a poo on a first date: Jen says no way; Marnie says there’s no issue.
Several toilet encounters later and things take a serious turn: Jen asks her older sister for a quick visual inspection down below, she’s sure something isn’t right, herpes maybe. But just as Marnie is telling her younger sibling to stop being so silly she realises that she too needs a visit to the doctor – she has a rather worrying problem of her own.
Flushed by emerging Manchester-based production company Theatre Unlocked puts the hidden traumas of female reproductive health disorders firmly centre stage. The impact of Marnie’s diagnosis on the sister’s relationship is deep, both characters are shaken by it and seem to struggle to respond. What comes across best in Flushed is the sense of helplessness, most evident in Marnie’s deep sense of alarm that there isn’t a prescription to just make it go away.
The acting performances from Georgia Phillips and Harriet Rose Millsopp – both recent graduates – are solid and believable, just a little bit of the kind of bickering and pettiness that you might expect from a pair of sisters who understand each other so completely. And the script from writer and director Catherine Cranfield feels realistic, with no sparing the kind of foul-mouthed toilet banter / humour you might expect on a drunken night out.
With 53Two soon to be celebrating their second birthday under the arches of the Deansgate-Castlefield tram stop, the management team are fulfilling an early commitment to give back to the Manchester community. Flushed by Theatre Unlocked is the first beneficiary of 53Two’s recently launched FOUNDation scheme – a fund specifically set aside to support emerging artists in the North West. As such, the scheme has made a strong start – Flushed is a satisfying and thought-provoking hour of theatrical pleasure which blends comedic silliness with the harrowing despair of helplessness.