The Tyler Sisters at Hampstead Theatre
Three women, three lives, one bond. Alexandra Wood’s new and innovative play takes audiences on the journey of three sisters, exploring the highs and lows of being linked by blood. The play spans forty years and with admirable direction from Abigail Graham we are invited into yearly snapshots of the women’s lives. These snapshots are moments in time; some small, such as changing bedrooms, and some big, such as illness, pregnancy and break-ups. It is this lovely variation that keeps the audience hooked.
The set is incredibly intimate; the Hampstead Theatre provides a space that matches the equally encapsulated plot. This setting gives off the impression that the lives of the three women are ready to be absorbed, ripe and ready for the picking. Graham directs the cast fluidly about the small set without it ever feeling cluttered, with props used interchangeably to match the scenario.
The three women have clear character personas, each fitting a potential type of a sister. Maddy, played by Caroline Faber, is the oldest and most responsible sister, as the stereotype goes. The middle is Gail, played by Bryony Hannah, who has a feisty nature and a desire to be in control of situations, and finally Katrina, played by Angela Griffin, is the carefree, energetic youngster. All actresses successfully execute character arcs and show significant development throughout the performance; this is enhanced by subtle costume changes such as the removal of a hair clip or the addition of lipstick.
A notable performance is that of Hannah, who has an incredible ability to utilise ebb and flow within her performance. Hannah, with wonderful assistance from Graham, delivers speed, intent and clear emotional states, transmittable even without dialogue. A shared success of all three actors was their sharp delivery of the dry humour written so successfully by Wood. The overall dialogue is complicated and wordy, with constant streams of consciousness and sisterly word-vomit, making the surprising moments of humour all the more witty.
Wood and Graham effectively create the feeling of sisterhood through the dialogue and direction. The arguments the sisters have are ones we’ve all had before, and the tactile physical acting is heartwarming and recognisable. The audience is privy to a pre-existing bond from the offset, but watch how it can grow and be shaken so easily; thus is the way with family. One statement can change things for a day or longer, but Wood encourages us to believe that this bond is one to cherish and work on, year after year.
This piece is a lighthearted and sharp exploration of the mind-boggling dichotomy of being a sister, and what this role brings. If anyone watching is a sister, they will recognise a lot of themselves in The Tyler Sisters, fighting for those shared and endless desires to be heard, listened to and understood.
Photos: Robert Day
The Tyler Sisters is at Hampstead Theatre from 13th December until 18th January 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.