Just Be Normal Review - A sister's bond

Sisterly love, warm and big. It isn’t fragile no matter how many fights, anger and words are thrown out at one another. It isn’t fragile as portrayed in Just be normal.

Just Be Normal Review - A sister's bond

The intimacy and vibrance that Emma and Sophia Jackson bring onto the stage are eye-opening into the struggles they faced. It shows the different lives that sisters have and yet as we continue watching, more similar than the sisters think. The stage is owned by both sisters, never seeing anyone else but hearing them through soundbites. The story is there to tell. 

Sophie is the younger of the two and the one responsible for her oldest sister Emma who is seen as troublesome. The play gives us a glimpse of their lives, from Emma’s undiagnosed autism to Sophia’s OCD. Emma, despite being the oldest, acts troubled as her teachers would call her. Due to her sensory overload at school, from always wearing large earmuffs against school uniform policy to using blunt language to vent her frustration at the volume of her teacher's voice, the teachers and the world view her as badly. The youngest of the two, Sophie, struggles with the mental and sexual health risk that does get overlooked in favour of focusing on Emma and her difficulties.

The use of audio to hear the other character’s voices is smart and beautifully woven into the story. The stage is the sisters and the sisters alone, never taking the spotlight from them, especially when it seems that the spotlight has been taken from the sisters so many times. The lights work to add more tension and anger to the stage. A favourite is turning up all the lights when there’s a break in the fourth wall. 

The two fight and argue like any other sibling. But instead of fighting about silly things, Sophia is facing the brunt of being Emma’s carer. Rather she doesn't want that responsibility and wishes for normalcy. But her relationship is more normal than she’d expected. One would say common. The sisters get angry at one another and makeup, like any sibling relationship. It’s heartwarming to watch.

However, we are constantly reminded that this experience, this story took place when the girls were children. The setting sets the scene with small beds, small tables and chairs to represent the school. It has a childish atmosphere to it and not once are we not reminded of how young the girls were facing such troubles. The absence of other people on stage and the limited use of sound bites emphasise the loneliness of the sister’s experience. 

Both sisters, never learning how similar they are, share poetic monologues with the audience. They explain their thoughts, and what goes on in their mind in a series of repetitions allowing the audience to hear what they feel. “Blend against the backdrop beautifully,” is a beautiful line, gut-wrenching at hearing the sister’s wish to be like everyone else. 

Emma tells us that a little kindness is enough so be kind as you never know what others have. Invisible disabilities are hard to deal with and kindness even small is more than enough. 

In the end, the sisters are honest about the struggles they face. And the sisters face whatever comes next together. 

Header Image Credit: Akimbo


Ayah Khan

Ayah Khan Voice Reviewer

Ayah is a physical geography graduate, currently studying international journalism masters. Her main interest is environmental journalism but she wants to deep dive into lifestyle type content and enjoy the lightheartedness that comes with it, especially if said content could be focused on zombies. She spends her free time reading and writing. And can’t wait to explore different forms of content writing!

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