We Should Definitely Have More Dancing – Review – Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

We Should Definitely Have More Dancing – Review – Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

By Elizabeth Stanforth-Sharpe, July 2022

In 2014, I saw a stage production of Brassed Off. The part of Gloria was played by a talented young actor named Clara Darcy, who, the programme informed me, had learned how to play the Flugel Horn specifically for the part. I was impressed.

I don’t think I was aware of Darcy again until I heard of Oldham Coliseum’s production of We Should Definitely Have More Dancing and learned more of her story. Having opportunity to see the play at Stephen Joseph Theatre was a life-affirming privilege.

Darcy was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2018. She’d been increasingly unwell for about six months, ushering away the blinding headaches, severe pain in her neck, dizziness, nausea and tiredness by finding a logical explanation in her energetic, dance-loving, drink-loving, all-night partying lifestyle. She’d sought help from chiropractors and physiotherapists with specialisms in multi-skeletal problems, but nothing seemed to solve the issues. Then, one day, the explanations fell away, Darcy found herself in hospital, a CT scan was quickly followed by an emergency MRI, and the fist sized tumour sitting just in front of the brain stem was revealed. An extremely rare clival chordoma. Because of the position, traditional surgery was not an option, so Darcy was given keyhole surgery through her nasal cavities. The procedure took fourteen-and-a-half-hours, the majority of the tumour was removed, but a fraction was left, leaving a time-bomb inside Darcy’s brain that had the potential to grow again. Eight weeks of proton-beam therapy followed, to target the mass that was left.

We Should Definitely Have More Dancing – Review – Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough Clara-Darcy

Clara Darcy

“Celebrate with joy”

Those are the startling facts. A life that was completely turned upside down within the course of one week. In the UK, more than twelve thousand people are diagnosed with a primary brain tumour every year, but here’s the thing: They are also the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under forty, with five thousand and three hundred of those diagnosed not surviving, and many more losing quality of life in their survival.

Darcy survived, has tremendous life quality in that survival, and wanted to celebrate with joy every moment of a life given back to her, by telling her story, not just for herself, but in honour of every person who was not so lucky, to draw attention to the brilliant advances that are being made in neurological care, and to thank the wonderful work of the NHS who cared for, and carry on, caring for her. But how could she do this in a way that was most uniquely her, and that resonated with her desire to be back on a stage, doing the work she loved?

After that first Brassed Off, Darcy had gone on to reprise the role three times; indeed, she was in rehearsal for this very show when her week of all weeks happened. As she recovered, the cast gathered at her home to play the band performances to cheer her up, just as in the original film the band had gathered under Danny’s window. Footage of this kind gesture was tweeted by Darcy, and seen by writer Ian Kershaw, who contacted Darcy to ask if he could help her write about her experience.

We Should Definitely Have More Dancing – Review – Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough Suzanna-Hamilton

Suzanna Hamilton

“Fizzy, energetic”

Kershaw had already brought theatre out of lockdown with the brilliantly shaped The Greatest Play In The History Of The World, written for his wife Julie Hesmondhalgh, using the barest of props, and it made perfect sense that the same team were brought together to tell Clara’s story. Tatty Hennesey, as co-director, has a gift for lighting up the edges of the darker stories of everyday life, allowing big concepts to be told through sometimes zany approaches; it’s a skill that is ideal for telling Clara’s story – neurological catastrophes can be messy, confusing, hard for others to understand and hardly ever move in a linear direction. Raz Shaw, co-director, has written and spoken often about his own journey with cancer, and understands well the plethora of emotions and physical setbacks that treatment unfolds.

Shamia Chalabi and Suzanne Hamilton share the stage with Darcy for a full eighty, fizzy, energetic, whirling, exhausting, minutes, without any pause or interval. It is as if she is compelled to show the dizzying propulsion with which she was catapulted from the ‘before diagnosis’ to the ‘after diagnosis’. It is in places hard to see, as she loses control over what happens to her body, emerges with a newly defined sense of who she is, and a desire to make every second of life count for something, because it is a life that very nearly wasn’t a life. But there is also incredible humour and trust in the resilience of a positive mindset.

A simple hospital – curtained stage and a table of seemingly nonsensical items in the hands of three fabulously astute actors tells the story brilliantly. Life is not always what we want it to be, but we use everything we have to make sense of it all. Darcy had never met Chalabi and Hamilton before they began working on We Should Definitely Have More Dancing, but they are clearly just the right people to be supporting her through this; I suspect there have been many tears, hugs and silent moments shared together. They play their multiple parts impeccably.

We Should Definitely Have More Dancing – Review – Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough Shamia-Chalabi

Shamia Chalabi


This is a play with no defined ending to it. How could there be? For the moment, Darcy has found love in unexpected quarters and embraces every moment, but Darcy also lives with the reality that one day cancer may return, yet for each person in the audience the future is just as unknown. None of us know what tomorrow holds, so celebrate this beautiful world, tell your loved ones that you love them and hold them close, be present in every precious moment, and pause to smell the flowers and listen to the birds.

Let’s not make any mistake about it; on stage, Darcy is performing, and doing it superbly well, as the dynamic, beautiful, gorgeously smiling, actor that she is, but backstage, the fatigue and the horrible parts of being a survivor of neurological trauma are doggedly there. To do this play, to do this tour, is a very treasured gift.

The production sheet bears a quote from Darcy, ‘Having balanced on the precipice of life and had a nice little dance with death, it felt incredibly important to share my experiences and lessons learned, particularly as I am very much one of the lucky ones. When you have a near-death experience you can’t help but come back from it with a whole new perspective on life.’

She has achieved just that, and done it amazingly well, with true style and panache.

At Stephen Joseph Theatre, the three actors received a standing ovation, and then there was a palpable, reflective silence, before the audience rose from their seats. That doesn’t happen very often in Scarborough. It has to be something deeply moving, humorous, touching and impactful, as We Should Definitely Have More Dancing certainly was.

‘We Should Definitely Have More Dancing’ continues its tour to Theatre By The Lake & Edinburgh Festival Fringe
images: Joel Chester Fildes


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