Enduring sisterly love

Annie Brookman-Byrne watches the play Run Sister Run.

Sister relationships, in my experience, are not straightforward. And so it is for Connie (Lucy Ellinson) and Ursula (Helena Lymbery), whose pained and uneasy interactions as adults at the start of the play tell of a difficult past. Connie and her partner Adrian (Silas Carson) are in the throes of a bitter and violent argument when Ursula appears at their house, unannounced. Nine-year-old Jack (Lucas Button) is delighted to meet his aunty Ursula, though Connie is not keen on their communicating, sending Jack to bed. Ursula is sent away as Connie uses make-up to hide her bruises before an all-important dinner with Adrian’s boss.

We are taken back in time to past chapters of their lives, in decade intervals, slowly discovering how and why things ended up as they did. The further back we go, the closer Connie and Ursula are. At their youngest, they seem to be the best of friends, older sister Connie promising to always hold Ursula’s hand. As they get older, the relationship gets rockier, with Ursula partying, taking drugs, and causing havoc in Connie’s flat. Substance use turns out to be just one factor leading to the widening distance between Connie and Ursula. There are surprises along the way as we come to understand why Connie was anxious about Ursula speaking with Jack. We learn more about each sister’s personality and motivations as episodes from the past fill in missing pieces of the puzzle.

The sisterly bond eventually endures, despite the complicated past. Though surely if we were to continue the time travel, we’d see just as turbulent a relationship in future decades – 50 years of ups and downs can’t be forgotten. The play led me to reflect on my relationships with my own sisters – the good times and the bad times that influence how we are together now. Like Connie and Ursula, I can think of specific points in our shared history that will no doubt shape our bonds for decades to come. It was almost comforting to see what the pair went through, managing to come back together in spite of it all. 

The focus on a relationship between two sisters, and a complicated relationship at that, was refreshing. I often find myself thinking ‘no sibling relationship is like that!’ when the depiction on display is of close friends with just the occasional bickering. In reality some sibling relationships really are like that, but typically they are highly charged – featuring both great warmth and great conflict, with the emotional intensity of the relationship affecting each other’s development and wellbeing. Run Sister Run felt like a portrayal of a genuine, sometimes joyful, sometimes painful, sister relationship.

- Reviewed by Annie Brookman-Byrne, Deputy Editor

Run Sister Run by Chloë Moss is at the Studio Theatre in Sheffield until 21 March, then at Soho Theatre in London from 25 March to 2 May.

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