Unravelling the Ribbon was a moving yet light-hearted play which followed three women whose lives were impacted by breast cancer in a different way. The touching play began as a series of monologues but as it progressed, the individual stories fused together as intense bonds between the three characters were formed.
The strips of bedsheets spray painted pink (kindly donated by Queens’ and Newnham) created a striking set and were arranged cleverly to divide the stage into three individual sections in which the three female leads performed their individual monologues. As the play developed and the character’s stories began to intertwine, the fabric partitions were pulled back to creatively reflect how the barriers between the characters were being broken down as the three women grew closer together.
There was a great attention to detail in the set as each character’s section was strewn with props that reflected aspects of their personality and character. The wavy garms and silver tea pot were perfect for the 50 year old hippie, Lola, and the fancy dress clothes, Harry Potter book and hair-straighteners were used to illustrate the transitional stage eleven-year-old Lyndsey was going though as she came to terms with growing up and accepting responsibility, alongside straightening her hair, getting a mobile phone and buying her first bra. The vivid pink was a constant reminder of the play’s collaboration with Cambridge Pink Week and their aim of raising awareness about breast cancer.
There was wonderful chemistry on stage between the characters which made the audience really believe the friendship that blossomed between survivor Lola and Rose as she was undergoing her treatment. The serious themes in the play and humorous moments created a perfectly balanced performance which reflected Pink Week’s desire to get people to talk and raise awareness about breast cancer.
Emma Corrin was fantastic in her role as the self-centred 11 year old, Lyndsey. Her convincing performance resonated with anyone who has a younger sister, daughter, or was once an 11 year old and can remember their turbulent year 6 friendship dramas which then seemed the be-all and end-all. Lyndsey’s hilarious jibes and one liners had the audience sniggering and giggling throughout the play and complimented Dolores Carbonari’s emotional performance of Rose, a woman dealing with being a mother and undergoing breast cancer treatment. Although there were a few stumbles and one or two silences, the acting was extremely strong and the accurate Irish accents cannot go unmentioned.
Under Eva O’Flynn’s direction, the characters made full use of the stage, constantly moving in their respective sections without detracting attention from the character speaking. Long monologues can, at times be dull and cause the audience’s attention to wander, but the constant activity on stage meant that this was not the case with the audience being fixated on the three talented women owning the stage with their every move.
Lighting could have done with some improvement. At times Lola looked like a ghost performing on stage due to the harsh lighting. Spotlights could have been used to enhance the focus on the particular character who was speaking and a change in colour or hue could have been used to give the impression that location had changed. Technically, the play was extremely simple: no music or sound effects, just the characters and their dialogue which worked flawlessly.
Hearing about producer Alex Barnett and director Eva O’Flynn’s ambitious project to put on a play with no budget drew me to see Unravelling the Ribbon. I was intrigued to discover how the decision not to spend any money on the production in order to maximise the amount of money raised for breast cancer charities would turn out. I can confidently say that Unravelling the Ribbon was a tremendous success, a great display of creative talent and determination and a must see production.
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