Beige Walls And Navy Sofas played at Camden People’s Theatre 2nd – 3rd Aug as part of The Camden Fringe 2019. We previously reviewed this show when it debuted at Catford Fringe’s scratch night back in 2018, which you can read here.
Last night I attended the performance at the Camden People’s Theatre as part of this year’s Camden Fringe. CPT is an intimate and welcoming venue that prides itself on giving a platform to shows that push boundaries and explore much-needed topics and voices; Beige Walls And Navy Sofas does just that.
As soon as Courtney McMahon enters stage everyone is intrigued. Although it is a solo performance, it is engaging from the offset and quickly feels like a privilege to be invited into this autobiographical tale. Beige Walls And Navy Sofas takes us on a journey through Courtney’s childhood as her mother becomes a foster carer, and the adjustments to suddenly having some brand new siblings to call family.
Having lived with approximately 50 siblings in her lifetime, Courtney’s retelling of her experiences and the open and honest dialogue she creates, weaving a picture of the good alongside the challenging aspects of fostering, is a crucial one. It is one that’s told with humour, love, and a whole mix of emotions in between.
The snapshots of Courtney’s life are pieced together in an endearing, arresting way, and the 60-minute journey flies by so quickly that you don’t want it to end. I could have definitely watched more of this story, but at the same time, the show that Ghosted Ink have created is a fantastic way to start the conversation and raise awareness of experiences of fostering. Especially, from the siblings’ point of view, which is not something often represented at all.
I was drawn to see this show because of my own experience of my family becoming foster carers when I was younger and thought it was brilliant that someone had made a performance piece about something that before now, I didn’t think anybody else could ever really “get.” Coping not just with living with new brothers and sisters, but also inevitably saying goodbye to them was something that I really struggled to articulate growing up, and still do. Yet here, watching Beige Walls And Navy Sofas, someone was standing in front of me doing just that.
What the show did brilliantly was raise the point of loss. Loss is something that is overlooked in our perceptions of the care system in all different ways, and this show gives a platform to that. It also made me realise though, that even when those connected to foster care will have very similar experiences in some ways, we can never expect to know someone’s own unique pathways of loss.
Even though Beige Walls And Navy Sofas does not shy away from tackling these complex topics, it is still punctuated with many moments of light relief and genuine laughs.
The minimal props and set dressing supporting the world of the performance fit delightfully well, and capture some early 2000s nostalgia in working-class London perfectly. We easily transport ourselves to the family living room for TV dinners, Christmas, and fights over Bratz Dolls without question. Watching Courtney’s character cycling around on a pink kids bicycle, or talking to a Yorkshire pudding that’s meant to be her Nan’s dog is both amusing and entirely fitting. The way that more serious tones are balanced with comic moments is well placed and sincere, meaning that we enjoy every minute.
I think that if you don’t know much about fostering then this show would be a really eye-opening experience from a lesser-voiced perspective. That said, even if you would just like to see a great play that makes you laugh, think, pull Christmas crackers and sing to George Michael (yes, really) then this production is a must-see.
Perhaps the most poignant part for me was toward the end of the show, when Courtney reveals a chart marking the growth of herself and all her siblings through the years, adorned with photographs and memories of all the brothers and sisters that have passed through her and her Mum’s house, and sat on those Navy Sofas with cups of tea, watching Saturday Night Takeaway. It really brings home that beyond all else, this is a show about experiencing family, but that acknowledges family in all its different shapes and sizes and confronts what it’s like to deal with those shapes and sizes changing.
Congratulations to Courtney and the Ghosted Ink crew on a moving and much-needed show. I’m excited to see this play continue to grow and am very much looking forward to seeing what the collective do next.
Five Stars for Beige Walls And Navy Sofas.
Keep up to date with all things Ghosted Ink here:
Facebook: Ghosted Ink: Arts Collective
You can visit https://www.fcwu.org.uk/ for information about the Foster Carers IWGB Union.
Writer/Performer – Courtney McMahon
Director – Niamh Parker-Whitehead
Technical Manager & Designer – Lilly Woodford-Lewis
Stage Manager – Molly O’Niell
Assistant Stage Manager – Isabelle Leach
Set Design – Niamh Parker-Whitehead & Constance Price
Producer – Ghosted Ink: Arts Collective
Field Recordings – Sam Kemp & Catherine Hawthorn
Special thanks to Elizabeth Parker, Cerys Barker & Arnold Senoga
Words by Lauren Barnard for Anthem Online.
Images from Ghosted Ink.