Age Concern estimates that there are 1 million LGBTQIA+ people aged over 55 in Britain today. Jennifer Lunn’s mindfully observed play Es & Flo, dramatically explores the rarely touched upon subject of an ageing lesbian couple as they navigate the complex and unpredictable journey of dementia, while fighting to stay together in their chosen family.
Set in Cardiff, Es and Flo have secretly been in a relationship since they met at the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp in the 1980s. At 71, Es’s memory is fading and her son Peter (who is never seen in the play), is trying to separate the couple by firstly bringing in an unannounced carer, which is to be followed up with the long term goal of moving his mother into a care home.
Es and Flo are fictional characters but in reality the movement against the use of nuclear weapons was started by 36 Welsh women who, on 5th September 1981, marched from Cardiff as the “Women for Life on Earth,” against the British government’s decision to allow cruise missiles to be stored on British soil. They arrived on RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire, and within a year there were over 30,000 women camping and demonstrating on site.
With the absence of any men on stage, Lunn leaves the women to tell their own stories in their own words, on their own terms.
In Es & Flo the venerable couple cling onto their memories from across the decades, and as Es develops a grandmotherly bond with her carer’s eight-year-old daughter Kasia, it proves to be an important catalyst for the passing on of stories to the younger generation about their life of activism. This intergenerational relationship is given special poignancy when ex-teacher Es reveals she lost custody of her own son due to her involvement in Greenham.
Lunn, won the 2020 Popcorn Writing Award and was 2022 recipient of The Nancy Dean Lesbian Playwriting Award for Es & Flo.
As the elderly titular couple, both Liz Crowther as Es and Doreene Blackstock as Flo, give captivating and heartfelt performances, and the chemistry between them literally radiates from the stage.
Adrianna Pavlovska brings real warmth to a role of Beata the carer, and is mirrored by an endearing performance by Chioma Nduka as her young daughter Kasia. There is also a strong supporting performance by Michelle McTernan as Catherine, the apparent villain of the piece and wife of the permanently absent son Peter.
Es & Flo is tightly directed by Susie McKenna and led by an all-female creative team.