As the nostalgic guitar arpeggios of Unpick the Flowers’ theme song fade out, two things are confirmed from the get-go. The first is that Dixie McDevitt’s timelessly relatable account of two women that follows is an honest, hilarious and heartfelt story of the masochistic joy underlying the fear and uncertainty of the never-ending process that is uncovering one’s identity. Marigold, a budding punk, is working out how to reconcile what others seem to want from her with her own ideas of who she wants to be against the backdrop of 1980s Camden. Chrys is a self-effacing Artist in the summer of 2019 who can’t write poetry and is in love with her best friend as her life continues to slip by, unseized. The second thing this confirms is that in a company of such talented aficionados of prose, poetry and music, I – the Actor™ playing Chrys – am an incredibly odd choice to write this preview.

Much like my character, writers have historically scared me – there are so many words that exist, and putting them in any kind of respectable order is a feat that too often goes unappreciated until an individual tries it themselves (yikes, says the author of this article, wittily). However, with the humility and openness that characterises her writing, Dixie has used the rehearsal process to pull back this veneer that too often separates a work from those interpreting it. The process has been intensely collaborative from the beginning, the characters deftly moulded around the actors in a way that only comes from an open dialogue between cast and a writer/director confident in her company and material, and rightly so. The play’s touching ending came to her in an epiphany following a discussion with myself and Orli, who plays Marigold – a rewarding and rare thing to watch unfold in front of you. Less poignantly, Yana Larkhanidi’s character of ‘the MC’ took on a new dimension upon the discovery that Yana could do an impeccable Russian accent. Without giving too much away, I will say that for a play set in Camden, there is now a disarming amount of Russian accents. And it works.

No matter where or who you are, these characters will be quoting eerily similar lines from your own internal monologue

Perhaps by twisted coincidence; perhaps inevitable through the empathy of Dixie’s writing: I fear that now more than ever the internal lives of our characters will strike a chord with even the most detached of listeners. It is a testament to the unfiltered humanity imbued in every line that the complete shutdown of society as we’ve always known it has somehow made these evocations of Life Before even more affecting today. Chrys’ inability to articulate herself through her writing – and her guilt at her reluctance to try – is made all the worse by how excruciatingly aware she is of the potential she possesses (yikes, the author of this article intelligently quips once again, thesaurus in hand). This itch – this inertia, toxically combined with frustration at unattainable productivity now permeates our lives in an unprecedented way. It is comfortingly disconcerting to hear the fug of these familiar thoughts expressed, ironically, so astutely. To refer to them as ‘monologues’ is to dull how vibrantly these characters’ lives are articulated as they struggle to articulate themselves; how much greater a meaning their experiences take on within us, as their own searches for greater meaning remain ongoing.

 Anna Trowby as an exceptional producer has helped realised this off-beat little piece’s potential from day one: Orli Vogt-Vincent's vulnerable, fearless Marigold ricochets off Chez Mann’s sardonic Zophy, whilst Amy Lever’s Ellen transcends maternal stereotypes in every conceivable way, cigarette in hand; and Yana’s haunting, reassuring tones permeate the piece. Jess Raja-Brown's delicate drawings have realised this radio play in colourful detail; and Carl Lawrence has outdone himself, not only as our audio editor, but also in composing an original theme song – you know, because some people can just do that, I guess.


Mountain View

Read More: The Fringe Must Go On

Recently, Dixie shared with us an experience she had whilst going through her old diaries, ones she hadn’t looked at in years. On one page, her adolescent self had written about her empathy towards her heart, and the lifelong pressure it’s under to keep beating. The next page detailed an account of her spontaneously deciding to get up early one morning, slip on some trainers, and go for a run. This stunned us: both events appear in the script, consecutively, in the scenes involving the character of Chrys. Dixie had absolutely no idea that she had previously written about them, thought these thoughts in the context of her own life. That is the magic of Unpick the Flowers. Tune in, and you’ll find that no matter where or who you are, these characters will be quoting eerily similar lines from your own internal monologue, too.

Unpick the Flowers will premiere on the 29th of May at 7pm on the ADC's YouTube Channel