“My name is Kirsty and I am seriously unwell,” says the star of this autobiographical show – except there is not one person talking but two. They stand like mirror images, a hygienic two meters apart, similar heights, accents and ages, talking in unison with impressive accuracy.
The story, however, belongs to only one of them – it’s the end of the show before they tell us which. Eventually, they break formation to speak independently and explain, in due course, that the real Kirsty Young wouldn’t have had the stamina to perform the whole show alone.
That’s because she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of eight and, ever since, her lung capacity has been decreasing. “I am drowning from the inside out,” she says. Her dream of being an actor and singer has grown increasingly hard to fulfil. She’s quite chirpy about it and, even though you know it must be tough going, she seems reconciled to the presence of death. Less reconciled, perhaps, to the £106,000 annual cost of medication that isn’t even effective.
There’s another reason for the double casting. By joining her on stage, Alisa Davidson demonstrates that cystic fibrosis is invisible to the naked eye. You really can’t tell by looking which one is which. Either could have inherited this cruel combination of genes.
In Amy Angus and Ed Robson’s excellent production for Cumbernauld Theatre (part of its Invited Guest programme to give a platform to voices from the community), it creates a fascinating effect. As they stand in white boiler suits on a clean white strip of carpet, their echoing voices create a dislocating atmosphere, like the clinical alienation of a hospital ward. The microphones of the test laboratory are the microphones they use to speak to us. They are at once patient and observer, not fully themselves.
Each time they return to their rendition of Billy Joel’s ‘My Life’, it gets more poignant, yet the production is careful to avoid easy sentiment, opting instead for a vivid, honest portrayal of a life of hope and resilience.