Reviewer: Megan Hyland
Upstaged rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
How My Light is Spent is a charming and beautiful play about love, loneliness and belonging. Written by Alan Harris, it follows the intertwining lives of Newport Nuts employee Jimmy and phone sex worker Kitty. The two develop a unique relationship, but when Jimmy begins to disappear, can they put the phone down and help each other before it’s too late?
Rhodri Meilir (Pride and Under Milk Wood) stars as Jimmy, also displaying remarkable character acting skills as secondary characters Stephen – preferably known as ‘Stevo’ – Kitty’s topiary enthusiast landlord, and Andre, the man that introduced Kitty to the sex industry. His comedic timing is impeccable, perfectly delivering Harris’ witty one-liners. However, Meilir also brings heart to the character of Jimmy and his relationships with other characters, particularly with Kitty and his daughter Mallary. His performance in these scenes is both emotional and raw, creating some particularly heart-warming moments. However, his chemistry with Alexandria Riley is undeniable. Whether they’re playing mother and son, father and daughter or two people in love on the end of a phone, they are entirely captivating. And their narration of the story is an equally humorous and striking description of events, with the two of them working together in tandem, effortlessly smooth in their delivery. But that’s not to say that Riley herself is not spectacular. In each character that she plays, she is equally as comical and emotional as Meilir, however, she brings a unique intensity and likeability to the character of Kitty in particular. Although her character acting skills are astounding, making her almost unrecognisable in each role, she brings a depth to the character of Kitty in particular. Although her character acting skills are astounding, making her almost unrecognisable in each role, she brings a depth to the character of Kitty that only enhances the overall performance.
And although the setup is entirely simplistic, with no props or set, the performances of Riley and Meilir continuously astound without the need for this. In fact, it’s possible that the presence of a set or props would distract from their captivating talent.
In 2015, How My Light is Spent won the Judge’s Award in the Bruntwood Prize for Playwrighting – and it’s not hard to see why. Alan Harris has created a heartfelt and delightful story that – despite its unusual subject matter – many audiences can relate to and perhaps even learn from. It is a truly beautiful and inspiring piece, offering hope for a man turning invisible and a woman who may as well be.
How My Light is Spent runs at the Royal Exchange, Manchester until 13 May 2017 and you can get your tickets here.