Innovative videographic choicesAhana Banerji with permission for Varsity

Eve Connor’s A Long Apprenticehood is an intimate and heart wrenching look at a sibling dynamic, spanning years and countries, confined to the narrowness of the Pembroke New Cellars. The promotion for the show promises an evening about butter, and the significance of the sisters’ relationship in Fleabag can be said to perfectly reflect the complexity of this production and the intricacy of the dynamic sibling relationship it explores.

“An intimate and heart wrenching look at a sibling dynamic”

Connor’s writing is rich with detail, fleshing out an entire history and universe in the space of an hour, which is no mean feat. Emily Knutsson, as Sophie, offers a note-perfect Irish accent with an ease of performance that wouldn’t be amiss on a professional stage, while Luke Nicholas is believably boyish, on the cusp of maturity but falling back into the arms of his sister as he did at his father’s passing. The pair play against each other with a believable familiarity, which is a credit to Jennifer Chen’s directing; they appear wired with the nerves of protracted distance while buzzing with the excitement of reunification.

Knutsson’s direct addresses are arresting, the grief for the brother she knew, held in every word; long monologues are delivered masterfully, unwavering in her electric performance. Nicholas echoes this intensity of performance and watching the slow fade of his adolescent enthusiasm into political convictions is intriguing. Connor constructs a paradoxical audience relationship with Sophie particularly aware of the audience’s presence, while Jim appears entirely consumed by his own reality, and the confines of the two-bedroom flat, drawing us in as we are kept infinitely distant and entirely proximal.

“The strength of the show lies in Connor’s writing and the delicacy of Knutsson and Nicholas’ performances”

The limitations of the venue, and the naturalistic production mean the tech is minimal, with simple lighting states and very few sound cues. Yet this doesn’t detract from the production, serving to further highlight how the strength of the show lies in Connor’s writing and the delicacy of Knutsson and Nicholas’ performances. Connor’s writing in performance is melodious and deeply affective, actioned perfectly by Chen’s direction. However, the limitations of the set become awkward at times, with the actors trying to navigate the huge weight of the reality they face whilst squeezing around tables and pouring tea from an empty pot. This sometimes stretches the limits of illusion, a shame considering the otherwise enthralling nature of the production.


Mountain View

Glimmers of theatrical brilliance in Lighthouse

The two-hander could easily tip into a suffocation for the audience, but political invocations and the sense of possibility that radiates from Connor’s writing keeps the play feeling expansive. Stan Hunt punctuates the action with a crisp RP accent pre-recorded, imitating a radio broadcast and adding to the sense of outside, thickening the play beyond the dialogue of a front room. The show’s cosiness is at once immediate, confronting you with the harsh realities of what it is to grow up,  while simultaneously stretching into the impossibility of the future. The play holds us as we navigate alongside the brother and sister pair, Sophie and Jim, facing trepidations about politics, identity, and growing up, at a point of life so fraught with change.

As university students, standing on the cusp of true adulthood, the play speaks beyond time and location to the human experiences of ageing, ones that echo around the walls of the intimate venue. It explores with tenderness how we reconfigure our lives and relationships around these distances, and the increasing distance from childhood. Connor need not serve a long apprenticehood in writing if this play is indicative of her future trajectory. The show is one of butter and love - what more could anyone ask for?

A Long Apprenticehood was shown at Pembroke New Cellars from Tue 21 - Sat 25 November.