OFS reviewer and volunteer usher Lucy saw Baggage, July 2021.

Originally scheduled for November 2020, Oxford Theatre Guild’s production of Bev Clark’s play Baggage was well worth the wait. A winter show that excels on even the warmest days, this 45 minute production satiates all expectations and sparks every emotion. A real tear-jerker, challenging stereotypes and excavating beneath the surface. It is compelling, championing and should be compulsory for all at Christmas.

The stage is dark. The set is simple. The music falls like snowflakes, twinkling as the lights shine blues and purples on the stage. Two benches and a bus stop sit before us. We wait for what feels like an eternity until a woman, dressed in sensible winter clothing, rushes onto the stage. Sandra Winnsford (Sandy, to her friends) is well-spoken, a wife and the mother of three teenagers. Unappreciated and overwhelmed, she welcomes us into her middle-class, middle-aged miasma – preocuppied, petty and proprietous — until, hyperventilating, she passes out.

Enter Annie. ‘A bag lady’. Sandra wakes up, accuses Annie of trying to steal from her; lets slip a revealing “you people”. Annie is offended, Sandra is embarrassed and tries to make up for her faux-pas through offerings of biscuits. Annie eats, Sandra waits and eventually they find common ground. Neither woman gets the bus very often.

Baggage is a magical meeting of two worlds. It blasts apart stereotypes and revels in truth. It is tragic, teeming with toil and tribulation; but also real, reciprocative and rewarding. It gets right in there; a rollercoasting 45 minutes which swells your heart and swills your tears. Especially encouraging is the play’s representation of homelessness. Annie’s tale is harrowing, a liturgy of loss which explains how she has come to reject society, to carry her belongings in a trolley with no place to call home. It is an expected wake-up call for Sandy who responds with true genorisity and kidness.

Baggage is beautiful. An exploration of loss and life, of the baggage we accumulate and which shapes us. It gives us hope, it gives us friendship. It also throws a few laughs along the way.

Breath-taking. Blubber-blooming. COMPULSORY CHRISTMAS CANON.