This is an intensely personal, sometimes funny, sometimes uncomfortable window into the relationship of two sisters at the toughest point of their lives so far. Alexandra and Kate Donnachie play themselves in this piece which as they say is written by Alex and Kate but mostly by Alex. The way they portray themselves is utterly real; a fascinating insight into two incredibly close sisters who are also close friends while still showing some sibling rivalry - while all the time beaming their warm and funny personalities into the space.
It’s between the lines that this piece becomes the most vibrant.
The three years and one week of the title relates to the age gap between the two of them they explain to us, as they do everything, straight out to the audience. They tell us that this show is put together following Alex asking Kate what ‘that time’ was like for her when they were still teenagers, although they don’t look much older now. ‘That time’ was when at age 19 Alex was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and at one point was given only six months to live. Kate as the younger lived through this from 16 onwards, and for that time, became the older sister.
It’s between the lines that this piece becomes the most vibrant. The care and attention that Kate shows to her older sister of whom she is incredibly protective. An older sister that she didn’t know had fragile mental health, a sister she had to be strong for and put her own feelings to one side as she prioritises Alex who she clearly loves very much. The subtle caring glances she still gives to her sister throughout the piece are both heart-warming and heart-breaking. Alex, on the other hand, as a personality, is harder to pin down. From fierce and funny to fragile, in seconds. Watching her try to eat part of a mars bar then put it back in its wrapper and get covered in saliva while Kate attempts to talk to the audience was not as disgusting as it may sound; it was heart-wrenchingly sad, as was the practical care that Kate showed by taking some wipes and cleaning her hands, with no fuss, and no words.
On the face of it, it’s of course impossible to tell how much is performance and how much is genuine, but it feels completely authentic and real. Which makes this piece hard to call a show – more docu-drama theatre. Added to by the facts which Alex tells us about eating disorders printed on cards, which tell the audience that claim more lives than any other mental health illness. While eating marshmallows, which then make her sick.
It’s a very brave thing to do, to bare all this in front of an audience. These are professional actresses and their flawless performances show this. It is a choppy piece, funny, sad, poignant, deeply distressing in places: which mirrors life, which is no doubt, the whole point.