Till the Stars Come Down
Rating: ★★★★★
Venue: Dorfman Theatre, London
Cast: Lorraine Ashbourne, Lucy Black, Lisa McGrillis, Sinéad Matthews, Derek Riddell, Ruby Stokes, Philip Whitchurch, Alan Williams and Marc Wootton 

It’s Sylvia and Marek’s wedding and you are all invited. Over the course of a hot summer’s day, a family gathers to welcome a newcomer into their midst. But as the vodka flows and dances are shared, passions boil over and the limits of love are tested. What happens when the happiest day of your life opens the door to a new, frightening and uncertain future?

When Sylvia woke up the morning of her wedding day she felt something bad was going to happen. Her sisters Hazel and Maggie dismiss it, and the preparations continue in a scene wrapped in the intimacy of their relationship, so natural and so light-hearted, so pure in its domesticity that it feels almost voyeuristic to watch.

Beth Steel’s clever writing shines the brightest in these moments that capture the chaos and hilarity of the morning of a wedding day, and the family at the heart of it. Comedy flows as easily as the fizz Auntie Caroline (played by Lorraine Ashbourne) insists they share while getting ready.

But there’s a cloud in Sylvia’s perfect sky: her future husband is Polish, and her family —although not outright disapproving— take issue with that, and so the first cracks begin to show. Racist remarks and snarky comments begin what devolves into outright mayhem, and suddenly the happy occasion becomes a day of reckoning for all the members of this family now forced to face the inevitability of change.

Marked by the scars of the working class struggles in Nottinghamshire, this show also examines the social dynamics brought on by a mining past, and a future devoid of possibilities for the new generations.

This ensemble cast is a constellation of stars on its own right, but two performers in particular made this the outstanding experience it was.

Lorraine Ashbourne is one of the most brilliant performers I’ve seen, going effortlessly from cartoonishly silly to heartbreakingly raw, to resembling every auntie at a wedding as Auntie Caroline. Masterfully breaking the tension when things threaten to get too heavy throughout the story, she’s also the voice of reason and experience, despite being self-centred and completely lacking any sense of self-awareness.

Maggie, played by Lisa McGrillis, starts out the show as the seemingly shallow, careless one, but throughout the play the layers and layers of complexity within her are revealed, like the weight of everyone’s expectations for her to fail, and her desire to be more (which may or may not be the trigger of her downfall).

The National Theatre (and Bijan Sheibani as the director) have made something truly special with this production. From the brilliant use of the revolving platform on the stage to the artful use of lighting and special effects; every detail was cared for to highlight the strongest moments of this show, without distracting or detracting from the power it inherently has.

Till the Stars Come Down left me breathless, partly from the laughter, partly from the shock the twists and turns Steel throws our way caused, partly from the rawness of it. It’s made me so excited for the future of British theatre, and if it’s anything like this triumphant play, it’s going to be very bright, like the stars themselves.

You can book tickets to see Till the Stars Come Down at the Dorfman Theatre, here.

Review by Luma

**photo credit to Manuel Harlan**

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