Spine by Clara Brennan

Thu 31st July – Sun 24th August 2014


Ellie Taylor

at 09:00 on 2nd Aug 2014



It is to the credit of both Clara Brennan and Rosie Wyatt that a play that is effectively an hour long rant could turn out to be so thoroughly brilliant. As the show opens and Wyatt starts raving in a thick London accent about an old lady, the audience may doubt whether they have made the right choice in picking this show. Their doubt is extremely brief. Almost immediately, the audience becomes immersed in Amy’s world while she recounts the tales of her past, and her relationship with Mrs Glenda.

Brennan’s script deals with weighty issues, and Wyatt is expert in making these more digestible to the audience. She does this through her seamless switching between the voice of Amy and her impressions of Mrs Glenda. The audience watch as Mrs Glenda’s ideals regarding politics, community, class and love slowly and begrudgingl impact on Amy. As time catches up with modern day, Amy changes drastically thanks to her relationship with the older lady.

A sparse set of teetering bookshelves acts as a visual aid but never overwhelms Wyatt and her monologue. Clearly this play has a lot to say, and one of the most heart-warming ideals that it upholds is the importance of libraries. Even this ideal is inseparable from politics in the way Mrs Glenda speaks of it: free knowledge provides a means for revolution for the younger generation. Wyatt’s delivery makes sure that this does not come across as preachy - a danger for any play exploring so many ideals. Instead, Amy is frank and gritty, lending the topics discussed an unassuming validity.

Although it is unlikely that the play will revolutionize the way the country is run, Spine will certainly inspire new thoughts in its audience. Brennan prioritizes feeling over thinking: through Amy, she teaches a lesson in human empathy and creates a deep nostalgia for the community spirit that is lost every time a library is closed. In short, Spine is a tasteful, provocative, and gripping performance.


Lili Thomas

at 09:34 on 2nd Aug 2014



Clara Brennan’s narrative took about thirty seconds to grab me, and Rosie Wyatt, playing Amy, took a single look. The dulled spotlight and crates of books on stage collide with the beat of Iggy Azalea’s rap to produce a simple yet thoughtful set design from Alison Neighbour.

Wyatt enters with a bewildered vulnerability and moment of dazed silence as though caught in the headlights. This is the only moment of silence we’re offered for the next hour. As the stage opens up with lights, so does Amy’s mouth; a gobby, defensive London teenager stands in front of the audience. As she says, there’s something dangerous about a teenager with something to say.

Amy draws the audience from the unfamiliar present of meeting Glenda, an elderly lady with a room to rent, back to her occasionally familiar and at other times pitiably unfamiliar time as a teenager finding her feet out of school. My momentary doubts about a one-woman play dissipated as Amy’s feisty resilience bites across the social attacks she faces with a sparkling and surprising humour. Bethany Pitts’ direction is acutely sensitive and Amy’s words never once drop the audience’s attention. Pitts forces nothing, and allows the character's fluctuating confidence to tell her story as much as the narrative.

Slowly, the impersonated character of Glenda grows from a caricatured comic figure, raising many laughs with an outrageous moment about stockings, into a visionary woman hidden within an elderly frame and soiled bed clothes. She lives alone, surrounded by stolen library books saved from extinction by Glenda’s thieving hands. The audience follow Amy’s mix of shock and disgust at the ‘Amazon Warehouse’. The friendship between the girl surrounded by fist fights and false eyelashes and the old and bluntly insightful Glenda is neither obvious nor conventional.

This is undeniably a politically conscious play, but Amy’s voice resists any predictable interpretations as the voice of inspiration or the young generation’s need to fight apathy. These ideas are present, but as her imagination unfolds and literature unveils different worlds to her, Amy never loses her personality.

Spine is not even close to didactic and this new studio play certainly got me thinking. There is a library, a community, and Amy, reeling off characters from classics in her aggressive manner because she feels like it. The ending sensitively entwines the women’s voices beautifully. As the audience leave, lifted on the legacy of radical women, we are in agreement with Glenda: ‘there’s a theme’.


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