Meet Amy. She's a passionate, fiery and, quite frankly, terrifying teenager from Willsden, North West London. Through a chance encounter at the point in her life when she thinks she's run out of all options, she starts a friendship with an "old biddy" in a large house that's been in the family for 138 years. As Amy tells us the story of how she got up to that point and all that's happened since, we learn about a brilliant, inspiring young person who doesn't realise her astounding potential, trapped by the ideas she feels society is putting on her and a magical, wise old woman who changes Amy's life.
I can't overstate how much this production moved me.
If there ever was a production to break your heart and put it back together again, happier and stronger, this might be it. It's not just heartwarming, it sets you alight. What's truly beautiful is that both characters counterpoint each other; Amy has a rock hard outer shell, enclosing a scared little girl, while the Old Biddy is a fading woman from the era of ration books and libraries, lit from inside as if by a blasting furnace. It's about how girls identify themselves and the confusion, pain and frustration of growing up when everyone around you tells you that you can't succeed. The title Spine refers to the backbone which the Old Biddy teaches Amy she must have to take on the world.
Holding a full-length solo show by yourself is no easy task and Rosie Wyatt not only accomplishes this but does it spectacularly. Having previously performed Bunny, another one-woman Underbelly/Soho Theatre collaboration, and Blink, a two-hander by Underbelly/The Traverse, Wyatt is experienced at independently sustaining energy and character for a whole show. The characterisation is perfect: not only is Amy a fully formed and totally believable character but her impression of Old Biddy is too; Wyatt even achieves nuanced details so that we see this delicate, old woman through a teenager's eyes. Wyatt is hilarious and simultaneously heart-breaking, and we are on her side from the off. Match this with clever and beautiful writing by Clara Brennan, winner of the Channel 4 Playwright award and resident at the Soho Theatre renowned for its new writing, and you have a very special production.
Old Biddy is full of teachings such as "You're not a loser, my dear, unless you've truly lost something" and "No one to vote for? DIY it, my girl!", filling you with the belief as you leave the theatre that anyone can achieve anything. I can't overstate how much this production moved me.