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Review: Hannah Maxwell / Nan, Me & Barbara Pravi

In 2021 Hannah watched Eurovision with her grandmother in her Luton living room and began developing a romantic obsession with the French singer Barbara Pravi.

Hannah’s interest in Pravi is further showcased by a Mastermind style question and answer segment, her desire to learn French and through multiple lines spoken to the audience in French, as well as through mini cartoon scenes played against a Parisian style backdrop. The care she took of Nan’s health is shown through large Dosette plastic boxes which Hannah has audience members fill out for her Nan with large pills. Their routines are shared through an interactive game of Countdown.

Although Hannah‘s obsession ultimately grows to a point where when she finally meets Pravi and gets her setlist signed she’s disappointed to not have a more meaningful interaction and begins to unravel. A clever lighting effect, reminiscent of flashes of lightning or small glitches in the neural network of the brain is used effectively. The meaning of the lighting remains unexplained until Hannah reveals that the disappointment led her to overdose and to present to Lewisham Accident and Emergency Department, implying that it’s the substance abuse that had been causing these glitches. Hannah shares that ‘it’s always quite scary when the person you‘re trusting’ ... ‘drops the ball’ and that ‘when it’s you it’s harder to cut that person out of your life.’ She also states that she’s ‘still getting used to vulnerability and fallibility’ and ‘it’s not easy to talk about these things.’

Overall this play, despite its light-hearted form, is a powerful piece about what happens when grief, addiction and obsession mix, and how even the people we think are on solid ground can stumble and fall. The play closes out with Hannah singing ‘Voila’ in French, just like her hero Barbara Pravi.

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