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Like a simmering saucepan of brussels sprouts, Gregory Beam’s play about families, siblings and love bubbles along beautifully, until you suddenly realise it’s all got a bit overcooked.
It’s clear why theatre company Free Trade productions have brought the US playwright’s work to the UK for the first time: ‘Keepsake’ is a smart, stylish, sharply realistic drama that keeps you guessing.
All families are complicated, but this one particularly so. Abra is the daughter of Egyptian immigrants living in Massachusetts while her sister Samara was adopted from a local woman as a baby. Long distant from each other, the adult siblings are forced to spend time together after their father kills himself. In the days leading up to the funeral, Samara decides to deliver some home truths, addressing shocking wrongs she suffered as a child.
It’s not all melodramatic doom and gloom: in the hands of excellent leads Dilek Rose (Abra) and Lou Broadbent (Samara) the humour in Beam’s script blossoms. We’re drawn into their funny, nasty sisterly banter and also convinced by the deep-rooted strain on their relationship.
Sean Martin’s direction is sharp too, and despite being set entirely in Katie Bellman’s disarmingly authentic kitchen set, the piece never feels static.
As the revelations pour out, so do the questions. Then, with the appearance of a gun, things begin to get a little heavy-handed.
There’s a crackling tension throughout the first half, and though the denouement is a little scrappy, in the main you’re kept on tenterhooks waiting for the dark truths lurking within this unusual family.
By Daisy Bowie-Sell