Theatre Review: One Under at The Leeds Playhouse

Graeae Theatre bring a brand-new version of Winsome Pinnock’s award-winning 2005 play, One Under, to The Courtyard where Leo Owen caught the show

Pinnock’s play mysteriously intertwines three seemingly disconnected narratives, opening with a flashing sign announcing the approach of a London Underground train. Deliberately opposing the sign’s warning to “step back”, a man narrates his feelings in third person, detaching himself from the act of attempted suicide.

Two underground workers illustrate the wide-reaching effects of suicide as one reflects on having witnessed three attempts already: “[the] first one freaked me out, by the third I was grateful for the time off.” Meanwhile, Zoe (Evlyne Oyedokun) frets for her adoptive mother Nella’s (Shenagh Govan) wellbeing; Sonny (Reece Pantry) surprises Christine (Clare-Louise English), claiming to be a guardian angel come to grant three wishes, and Cyrus (Stanley J Browne) remains lost in his own past.

Designer Amelia Jane Hankin’s set reflects Pinnock’s abstract narrative with a miscellaneous structure centre stage that the five cast members sit around when not in role. The screen ensures the whole play is subtitled, placing D/deaf and disabled artists centre stage in line with Graeae’s manifesto.

Pinnock’s complex structural timescales and utilisation of crosscuts mean as the play unfolds, these apparently unrelated stories gradually intertwine in unexpected and fascinating ways. Intriguing, uncomfortable and moving, One Under explores the different ways people grieve, atonement, family, trust and jealousy. It’s truly thrilling to watch but also heart-warming, promoting human kindness and connection by suggesting society as a whole are all mutually responsible for each other.

One Under showed at The Courtyard Theatre November 5-9.