“It was important that it was romantic. It’s about loving”
BY LINDA RILEY, IMAGES VIA THE KING’S HEAD THEATRE/ANNA ARTHUR PR
Showing at The King’s Head Theatre in Islington until 1 October, Bright Half Life asks: what if life came with a rewind button? Starring Eva Fontaine and Susie McKenna, the play centres on the optimism of a new relationship, as the realities of life come colliding together. DIVA publisher Linda Riley had the chance to chat to Eva Fontaine and Susie McKenna, who play Vicky and Erica respectively.
Poignant moments throughout the play only become clear to the audience as the flashbacks move from the future to the past and back again in this original, skilful work written by Tanya Barfield.
With flashes from the future, the past and everything in-between, everything comes together to tell this out-of-sync lesbian love story. A feat for WLW representation in theatre, it portrays an intense contrast of highs, lows, passion, fears and joy all playing out over the course of Erica and Vicky’s relationship. The play highlights the stark stages and evolution of their love, their personal battles and their mission to find fulfilment from life whilst navigating the compromises that they make for love.
This four-decade love story cannot fail to resonate with so many of us who struggled with coming out. It also addresses the many complexities within relationships, including interracial relationships, mental health struggles and the complexities of co-parenting. As a venue, The King’s Head Theatre makes clever use of staging, setting the scenes despite the minimalistic use of props and enabling the swift transition of scenes. This, in turn, translates into the audience witnessing the jumbled reminisce of the couple reflecting on their journey through life and love.
It was truly joyous to see such a powerful lesbian love story in the heart of London’s theatre scene. “I delved quite deep into it myself, because I had something called burnout. It’s not a breakdown but it’s not dissimilar, where you feel like you’re not really functioning”, Susie McKenna states on playing Erica and representing the mental health struggles that the audience witness towards the end of the play. “It’s really corny to say, but if you love someone, you set them free. The structure of going back and forth…I don’t really see it as an ending. There’s a line in the play that says ‘we’ve stopped’, but no, ‘it’s just a pause.’ I think that’s a metaphor for the play. Sometimes when two people are meant to be together, you can take a pause in that relationship or maybe you don’t see it as a pause at the time. It shows that a relationship can span a lifetime without being there for every moment of the lifetime.”
“My wife is Black. I have had to be educated in a 23-year relationship with a Black family, being part of a Black family. You have to learn and understand. You can get things wrong”, Susie McKenna says, speaking to the role that interracial relationships play. “This is one of the hardest things we’ve ever done, in terms of concentration.”
“I thought how important it was that it’s romantic. It’s about loving. There was such hope in there for that fact that even at the end, their love never changes. It never goes away.”
Bright Half Life shows at The King’s Head Theatre until 1 October. For tickets, visit kingsheadtheatre.com.
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