What Once Was Ours at Half Moon Theatre online
Originally performed in 2017, What Once Was Ours feels as relevant as it did when it was penned. Featuring the poignant story of two half-siblings reunited after ten years apart, the immersive play explores themes of race, immigration, identity, and family.
The play feels expansive and rich for only having two characters. Katie, 17, and Callum, 19, have the same father, but that appears to be where their similarities end. When Callum comes unexpectedly to stay with Katie, the pair grapples with their contrasting views on immigration and what it means to be British. While Katie, who is white, holds anti-immigration viewpoints, Callum, who is mixed race, believes Katie should be content because she has a family and a home. Through traumatic events and painful memories, each sibling forces the other to rethink their views, taking the audience with them on a powerful journey through identity and belief.
In order to divulge the complexities of the immigration issues surrounding Brexit, the director, Toby Ealden, and the sound designer, Guy Connelly, employ creative sounds and staging. Callum breaks into rap monologues and Katie vocalises her anxieties to the sound of a ringing telephone or a boiling kettle of tea. Additionally, as an immersive experience, the play invites audience members to sit amongst the cast. Katie and Callum occasionally interact with the viewers, pushing past them or holding onto their shoulders as though the viewers themselves are background characters.
Though the audience may feel like extras on a set, the play’s immersive nature reminds us all that we cannot stay silent on the issues that matter to us. Ealden shows us that we are integral parts of the story of Britain, that our voices and opinions matter and must be heard. The addition of recorded testimonies from teenagers voicing their opinions on Brexit further highlights the urgency and complexity of the issues explored in the play.
While the creative set and sound design set the stage for a gripping production, the incredible acting of Pippa Beckwith and Jaz Hutchins, who play Katie and Callum respectively, turn the play into something truly incredible. The two young actors breathe such life and emotion into an issue that is often extrapolated into the theoretical or the abstract. By expertly showing all the pain, love, and beauty from the struggle, Beckwith and Hutchins connect with the audience and show them the personal effects of political issues.
Though targeted at teenagers, the play is clever and engaging enough for all audiences, and the important questions posed throughout the story make for compelling family discussions. What Once Was Ours fluidly and thoughtfully tackles social issues in an unforgettable experience for all viewers.
Photo: courtesy of Half Moon Theatre