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Beth Steel’s “Till the Stars Come Down,” now playing at the Dorfman Theatre, National Theatre, is a tour de force of family drama, humour, and poignant societal commentary. Directed by Bijan Sheibani, this play captures the essence of life in a working-class East Midlands town with both warmth and razor-sharp wit.

Set against the backdrop of a wedding, the story revolves around three sisters: Hazel (Lucy Black), the reflective middle sister caught in a loveless marriage; Maggie (Lisa McGrillis), the free spirit with a penchant for causing a stir; and Sylvia (Sinéad Matthews), the youngest, whose marriage to Polish immigrant Marek (Marc Wootton) serves as the catalyst for the unfolding drama. Their interactions, full of banter and heartfelt exchanges, are the play’s backbone, offering a masterclass in character dynamics.

Samal Blak’s set design—a minimalist green astrograss circle with a central rotating stage and a disco ball above—creates an immersive atmosphere that draws the audience into the heart of the action. This inventive setup not only breaks the fourth wall but also envelops the audience in the play’s emotional landscape, making them silent witnesses to the family’s trials and tribulations.

Sheibani’s direction is a standout, balancing the play’s quick wit with its deeper, more reflective moments. His ability to navigate the complex emotional terrain of Steel’s script ensures that each character is fully realised, their personal struggles resonating with authenticity and depth. The play’s exploration of themes such as migration, economic decline, and the longing for escape from the constraints of a predetermined life path is handled with a deft touch, avoiding cliché and instead offering a nuanced look at the human condition.

However, the portrayal of Marek has drawn criticism for its lack of depth and nuance. While intended to highlight the challenges faced by immigrants in a changing Britain, the character’s development and the exploration of his background could be seen as insufficient, detracting from the otherwise meticulous narrative construction.

Despite this, “Till the Stars Come Down” excels in its depiction of the sisters and their complex relationship with their hometown. The play’s dialogue sparkles with the distinct humour and wit characteristic of Steel’s writing, with Lorraine Ashbourne’s Aunt Carol providing comic relief that is both uproarious and tender.

In sum, “Till the Stars Come Down” is a compelling, multifaceted drama that marries humour with heartache, exploring the ties that bind us to family and place. It’s a poignant reflection on the dreams and realities of working-class life, brilliantly acted and directed, with a set that brings the audience intimately close to the action, making it a must-see at the National Theatre.

At the Dorfman theatre, National Theatre, London, until 16 March

Elena Leo is the Arts & Lifestyle Editor of Ikon London Magazine.