Exploring themes that are scarcely mentioned in the arts, yet are of importance to shed light on, Es & Flo is a powerful and loving representation of what it means to cherish life with a partner who is willing to choose you, despite it all. When the titular characters deeply fell for each other at Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp in the 80s, the fiercely feminist pair were activists - a notion that features across the piece. They have since been sharing their memories, and the adoration of one another still shows in each moment of the days they spend together.
Now in older age, Es (played by Liz Crowther) seems to be getting progressively more forgetful, and to the shock of Flo (Doreene Blackstock), an unexpected visit from a carer, Beata (Adrianna Pavlovska) was arranged by her partially estranged son and his wife, Catherine (Michelle McTernan) to support. By chance upon first meeting, Beata's daughter, Kasia (Chioma Nduka) arrived too, and as Es once enjoyed working with children, she therefore has an affection for the adorable young girl, helping with her reading and studying. However, Flo's initial reaction to the change, and accepting having others to assist in the house is an emotional struggle. Despite their lengthy relationship, Esme and Florence are not officially married, which brings added complications in determining next of kin and power of attorney when arranging their future living arrangements.
After a cracking opening line, followed by some utterly beautiful chemistry from the leads, it's clear that Jennifer Lunn's writing, with direction from Susie McKenna, is an immediate rare treasure that incorporates this wholesomeness into a production that can still pack a punch with its messages. The homely set, designed by Libby Watson, is a comforting space that the audience feels welcomed into, and brings a sense of realism to the situation. Es and Flo's connection transcends the stage with genuinely heartwarming and heart-wrenching moments over the course of their journey, as they manage the cruel effects of dementia, family relations, and holding onto everything they've built over the years, testing the strength of their love when being pulled apart.
During a dramatic second act, another section to the stage - once a curtain, used for projections of old footage - unveils a new layer, both physically and metaphorically adding to the complexities of the storyline, with an area that is a stark contrast to the lower part of the set, representing the alienation felt by that point. The overall ending makes for a fluid and well-rounded performance; audiences being invested in each character, and although a nice concluding statement, you would happily continue hearing more of the stories of not only Es and Flo, but also kind-natured and funny Beata, as well as sweet Kasia, and possibly even Catherine by then too, all as the chosen family.
Being profoundly moving, but joyous in equal measure, this is a show that will have great effect on many who see it, and would be worthy of a return, longer residency in the future.