As you enter Unity One, there is nothing much on stage to give any hint as to what may lie ahead. A coat stand, table and two chairs and a piano. What does stand out however, is the very modern looking microphone placed stage right that is used very cleverly by our duo who begin the piece by creating sound effects. With the use of a loop station they fill the space with noises of the wind, different animal voices that
create the effects of a farm.
Second Soprano is set in 1914 and tells the very poignant tale of two sisters Jane (Hirst) and Elizabeth (Shrimpton.) Jane feels compelled to do her bit and goes of to Belgium to become a nurse, leaving Elizabeth behind to look after the farm.
Meanwhile, Henry the next-door neighbour, fails to muster enough courage to tell Jane that he loves her before it is to late and she leaves. Shortly after, Henry also leaves to join up leaving Elizabeth alone. Time invariably moves on and we see the challenges that these characters face.
There is of course potential for such a heavy topic such as war to be all doom and gloom, but these two have got the balance just right with their mix of music, vocals and physical theatre. Hirst and Shrimpton are by now well practised as this show is in its third successful year and their confident performances shine through as they battle their way through numerous songs (piano accompaniment and harpsichord supplied by Shrimpton) whilst hurtling around the stage. Both also double up on parts with Hirst playing the love struck next-door neighbour Henry and Shrimpton the stereo typed matron.
There are many layers to this show, from the unique use of the loop system to create sound effects that set the tone and mood for each section of the piece, to the beautiful harmonies from what are clearly very talented performers. Not only do they perform in this show but they have also collaborated with Ellie Routledge to produce a very eloquent script. It is good to see different elements being used to tell this tale, people's memories after all, and they have done so with sensitivity and understanding. A beautiful story and one that will continue to inspire all that come to watch.
Cast: Martha Shrimpton, Olivia Hirst.
This review was first seen on Liverpool Sound and Vision.