When you first thumb through the play text of Glee and Me (available for £5 next to the ticketing stand), you might wonder how on earth one actress can carry an entire ninety-minute theatre production.
Surely there can’t only be one actress, one character?
But there is.
BAFTA-nominated Liv Hill fills up the stage with the personality of Lola, a 16-year-old girl that is diagnosed with Glioma Multiforme – a malignant brain tumour that will rob her of her speech, her motor function, and in sixteen months, her life.
She has two main objectives before she dies: to get laid and to discover the meaning of life.
It’s not the most light-hearted premise. Lola admits that. But she’s trying to ‘keep it breezy’, with a monologue jam-packed with wit and emotion.
Throughout the production, she engages the captivated audience with Stuart Slade’s painfully relatable dialogue – she soars through the highs and lows of dying as a teenager.
And, against all odds, there are highs.
The simple, effective costume design and contemporary references (yes, there are TikTok dances) remind you that Lola is just an ordinary teenage girl that has had an extraordinarily bad thing happen to her.
The tonal shifts are intense. They are hard. Amidst the dark comedy are some truly heart-melting and heart-wrenching scenes of love and grief and lust and loss.
Of course, it isn’t all Hill. Props must be given to the people working behind the scenes, including set designer Anna Yates.
A large, round sheet looms over the stage, resembling the tumour that grows ever larger. The teenage bedroom we spend most of our time in is a joyful, almost assaulting yellow.
The lighting (Jess Bernberg’s work) catapults the experience to a new level, catapulting the audience into Lola’s new, painful reality.
It hurts. But it’s worth it.
Just like life.
Glee and Me is currently running at the Royal Exchange Theatre from 16th September to 30th October 2021. Tickets are available to purchase here.