A while ago, I interviewed Loughborough Drama student Lewis Wood about his new, sold-out play Sonder. Last week, the performance was put on in Martin Hall’s Leonard Dixon Studio for a limited two-night run, and I was lucky enough to get a ticket. The show, split into three sections, explores the idea that ‘each random passer-by is living a life as vivid and complex as your own’, something that we may have all thought about, but have never seen directly explored in a play before.
I entered the theatre and all seven actors were already on stage, waiting for seats to fill up and setting the train station scene. Visually, the production was very simple, but the atmosphere created as the play began made up for that and I quickly became intrigued by what was going to happen next. After my initial interview with Lewis, I was slightly confused about how interlocking three different plays would work without it feeling disjointed, but that concern was put to rest by the use of the drunk, homeless narrator.
Interacting with the audience via intermittently rhyming monologue, the narrator introduced each part of the play in a way that widened the audiences thinking to perceive what was to happen in a specific light. He had a cheerful and larger than life personality, Mercutio-like with Disneyesque flair, and was easily my favourite character. The actor playing him kept the audience constantly entertained and was a perfect fit for a somewhat hard to achieve persona.
For me, each part of the play held a different kind of significance, but the first section was hands-down the one I enjoyed most. It explored the potential relationship between a man and a woman in a non-typical way, presenting positive and negative outcomes from different romantic situations as the man dabbled between the practicalities of just looking at an attractive girl on a train and envisioning that this stranger could be his soul mate. It gave the overall message of ‘you will never know what will happen to you’ and combined –like each section did in its own way – a comedic surface with a solemn undertone. There was lip-syncing, self deprecation and a lot of laughable awkwardness just as much as there was sincerity and realism in what people are truly thinking when interacting with one another. This balance made it relatable and modern, which I found refreshing.
The second part involved only one character: a cleaner. Despite only having one actress and a spotlight, the audience was captivated by the story she told throughout the ten-minute performance. Holding an audience on your own in that way isn’t easy to do, especially when playing a character that most people wouldn’t expect a lot from. But, through the life story she tells, you can relate to her stuck-in-a-rut feeling and laugh at her creative way of mixing things up – moving into a client’s mansion without being detected! It shows that you shouldn’t disregard people based on what they do, and links nicely with the finale which is all about the difference between appearances and actualities.
The final part of the show was the most complex. It involved three incompatible characters, a businessman, a mother and a younger guy, that start talking whilst waiting for a delayed train. As the story progresses, the characters come out of their shells and drop their facades as they share their deep-seeded issues with one another. The once typical stress-head businessman confesses his nervousness about proposing to his boyfriend, the initially shifty mother tells of her child’s sudden cot death and the younger fellow – a seemingly cheerful and light-hearted joker – describes his experiences dealing with mental health. What starts out as an average conversation quickly spirals into a sort of counselling session for the three, and the mood turns darker and darker until, at the plays end, a train approaches just after a discussion about committing suicide. The audience are left wondering what happens next, both in this instance and across all other parts of the show, as the lights cut out and the actors take a bow.
After seeing Lewis receive flowers and give out his thank-yous, I listened to the audience’s reactions to the show. They were all chatting around me, saying how ‘enlightening’ and ‘different’ the play was and that they were surprised it was so enjoyable; one person even mentioned it was the best production they’d seen all year! Personally, I was immeasurably impressed with the quality of acting and scriptwriting that went into the amateur production –I would recommend it to anyone and everyone and I hope it gets taken into other theatres and festivals for more to see.
Congrats on the great show Lewis!