Living under the shadow of BRCA1 – the genetic mutation that can develop into breast cancer – is daunting at the best of times. Now imagine you’re 16-years-old, your mother is undergoing ‘treatment’ and somewhere down the line, you’ll have to make a decision about the BRCA1 gene you’ve inherited…
Written by Sarah Milton and directed by Scott Ellis, Lucy Light follows the friendship of Jess (Georgia May Hughes) and Lucy (Bebe Sanders) over the course of a decade. Beginning when they first left school, the girls repeatedly wrestle with the idea with what do they want out of life. Determined to keep Lucy in a positive frame of mind, Jess is always up for having a good time and imbibing. Lucy, meanwhile, ponders about a lot of things – ‘the boy that got away’, writing for the local newspaper, how old her mother was when she found she had the BRCA1 gene… Of course Jess has her own health worries too, what with being called to the hospital so soon after her last smear test…
As a counterbalance to the more serious themes of Lucy Light, nostlagia and pop references to the early 2000s permeate the play, giving poignancy to the no-so-light-hearted scenes when they arrive.
Lucy as a character has a lot going on beneath the surface, but Sanders deftly straddles the balance between feeling raw about things and numbness at her predicament. Hughes, meanwhile, demonstrates enough joie de vivre for them both, as well as anger at the way women are ‘betrayed’ by their own bodies.
While watching the play, I had an epiphany about the ‘C’ word (no, not the rude one!) – something that’s been staring me in the face for years, but hitherto hadn’t sunk in. Both sexes can develop cancer over time, but for women there seems to be so many varieties that can occur – especially of a gynecological nature. Nature only allows a finite amount of time for fertility and then in many cases, attacks the part of the body that are most ‘feminine’.
From the off, women have to be conscious about time in a way men never have to or will understand – counting the days of their menstrual cycle, the days/years for optimum fertility, the regular cervical and mammogram screenings… Small wonder that Lucy wakes up in a cold sweat, lurching from one countdown to another.
But I digress.
Inevitably, an element of ‘carpe diem’ manifests itself, by that’s how it should be. As most people know, Lucy in Latin means ‘light’, a reference in the play to when she was born – at dawn, after the darkest hour. But there’s a literary link to Dylan Thomas too, about not accepting the cards one’s been dealt, but letting one’s lifeforce burn fierce and bright. Lucy’s life can still offer many more years of warmth and comfort to others, and vice versa – the most important thing being she doesn’t have to be alone.
© Michael Davis 2017
Lucy Light runs at Theatre N16 until 7th October.