Some plays take a while for you to settle in. Stuff isn’t one of those plays. I don’t know much about Mick Cooper but anyone who can hook you in with three characters in a living room for an hour knows how to draft their writing until it gleams. A lot of the time within fringe theatre the productions are works in progress which gauge a reaction instead of forcing one. Stuff is fully formed as well as expertly nuanced, once again raising the bar for this year’s 24:7 festival.
Tuesday, 29 July 2014
Monday, 28 July 2014
This tale of girl meets boy strikes an interesting counter point/companion piece to the similarly themed In My Bed. Both share similar set design (the action revolves around a bed) and a fractured approach to narrative structure but Afterglow is easily the lighter of the two pieces.
Saturday, 26 July 2014
They say it’s lonely at the top, but not half as lonely as it is at the bottom, lost and forgotten, which is where club singer Vera Dymond finds herself in The Lives and Loves of Vera Dymond from writer Jayne Marshall.
Friday, 25 July 2014
We have all sorts of news to share along with this issue, our 11th. The final few drops of our ale collaboration with Marble Brewery are out and about (try the Marble Arch) after an incredibly successful run. Here's the photo blog of our brewing day again.shiny new website, which will host each magazine's writing online. This time it features the Tycho interview, Mr Hass's art work, news, reviews and opinion, including features on Central Library, Urban Psychosis and nutritional reports - all the same as the printed magazine but with extra videos and links. Saturday 26 July we'll be in Moston for a free event, which is the area on the other side of Simon Bray's lens in our issue 11 photo feature. Running 2pm-7pm, the event includes a free DJing workshop run by Mind On Fire and Taste The Difference, followed by a special live soundtrack performance by beatboxer and vocal sculptor Jason Singh. If you don't know what a vocal sculptor is or does, then make you come armed with questions to ask him after his short talk about his craft. Sign up to the workshop by emailing ian at nowthenmagazine dot com with your name and 'MIND ON FIRE WORKSHOP' in the subject line. Did I mentioned it's free all day? See you there.
Here are our supporters for this issue (in page order). Be independent, buy independent.
MANCHESTER ACADEMY VENUES.Manchester Academy.
MARBLE & NOW THEN ALE.Marble Beers.
TWENTY TWENTY TWO.Brand new ping pong room now open.
Three Women is an inter-generational drama about coping with loss, and how life has a knack of passing its patterns down through the family tree. Written by Mari Lloyd and directed by Peter Mitchelson, it tells the story of Lorraine (Jackie Jones), her daughter Ellie (Lily Shepherd) and Nan (Annie Edwards). Ellie has just had a miscarriage from an unexpected pregnancy, which sends Lorraine into feelings she thought she had forgotten. Unwilling or unable to communicate with one another directly, Nan arrives and attempts to smooth things over. Blame, shame and confusion ensue as the three try to come to terms with what has happened and with how they feel towards each other.
Thursday, 24 July 2014
The play begins with the small talk of housemates Sarah (Olivia Sweeney) and Rose (Amy Drake), who quickly form an endearing double act. “New bedding means one thing!” chides the irrepressible Rose as Sarah prepares for a date. The date leads to Danny (Kurt Nikko) coming home with her; they cuddle, but he's reluctant to get closer and so that's as far is it goes. Something about this doesn't seem quite right or, as Rose puts it the next morning, “Snuggles, what the fuck?” Soon Danny becomes an ever-present, leaving Sarah to question what it all means while Rose is kept at a distance, the blissful balance of their friendship thrown out by the introduction of a third force.
I don’t know what the actors and director did to achieve such great onstage chemistry and cohesion, but I have seen very few pieces where the characters seemed so natural as a collective. They also gave great individual performances: Sweeney has an iridescent intensity as Sarah, Drake is interesting and irreverent as the doting Rose, while Nikko works well as Danny, the man who isn’t quite there. Although dealing with some dark issues the text is not heavy, using a lightness of touch to paint a detailed picture with a few strokes. Recycling lines from different parts of the play works wonderfully well, with the actors striding across the stage to deliver these flashbacks while Sarah descends into internal agony.
The result is hypnotic, with the repetitions accentuating how trapped the characters have become in the destructive patterns of their lives. However, all this is lightened by a playful humour, as when Danny asks a series of disturbing ‘would you rather’ questions and Rose delivers her catchphrase “fuck him off!” with ever increasing splenetic vigour.
A very well written play with excellent performances and smart direction, In My Bed condenses the consequences of unbalanced affection into a moving hour of theatre, one that is well worth watching and that will hopefully have a life beyond its run at 24:7.
Words: Andrew Anderson
Brothers Mike (Sam Thompson) and Mark (Sam Moran) live together in what at first appears to be a happy home. However, it soon becomes clear that everything is not alright and Mike is left to look after younger brother by himself. He offers the stability, security and support that a parent normally would and, in return, receives the unfettered adoration of his sibling. Jump forward twenty years and we see Mike returning home from abroad, no longer the centre of the family but now a pariah among his own people. What happened to cause such a seismic shift?
The story is paired down to the essentials, allowing a lot of ground to be covered in an hour without feeling rushed. Told with a mix of present and past events, the writing is clean and each character has a clearly defined voice that can be quickly picked up on. Mike’s support of Mark, who he begs to, “Please be someone,” is touching, as is his self-sacrifice in working to support Mark’s ambitions. As a pair Thompson and Moran go well together, although perhaps the standout moment is Thompson’s tearful performance in the closing soliloquy. The rest of the cast are also due praise, supporting the central pair assuredly. Parry has marshalled her actors well, keeping a stable balance between the different personalities and allowing each to express themselves without dominating, while the story moves on at an appropriate pace.
One could easily imagine The Box of Tricks as a full production, either on a professional stage or perhaps as a television play. Doing so would also alleviate the issue of adult actors playing themselves as children, which is often problematic and proved to be so here; it is nigh on impossible for adult male actors to play very young children without some degree of awkwardness. Given the needs of the script it is an unavoidable issue, and Thompson and Moran got through it without too many difficult moments.
The Box of Tricks is a solid play that tells an interesting story in a succinct manner, with a high standard of writing, direction and performance - well worth watching.
Words: Andrew Anderson
A middle aged mother of one living in Todmorden, Lisa's life has not been easy. She's lost close connections, suffered through an abusive marriage and has a difficult teenage daughter who she does daily battle with. But, throughout it all, she's had the dam: silent and unchanging, it is a place to find peace, pleasure and, perhaps, acceptance.
The structure of To The Dam is discontinuous, with present-day narration inter-spliced with recollections of past feelings, thoughts and conversations. Not everything Lisa does is likeable, but her actions always make sense in the context of her character, whether that is re-enacting a fight, recalling an old song or remembering how love used to be. Her language is by turns hard, pretty and poetic, creating a vivid world that feels so real you could almost step out of your seat and into the scene, with the words rising around you like the water of the reservoir itself.
To bring such disparate parts of a person's persona together, knitting them into a cohesive whole, is a very impressive achievement. Whether her face is contorted with hatred, her voice trembling with emotion or her limbs lost in the joy of movement, Gerard is always utterly engaging as Lisa. The direction plays a big part in this, Clarke and Gerard clearly forming a fantastic working relationship both with each other and their character. Further flourishes, such as the use of lighting to create a tripartite shadow of Lisa on the rear wall, accentuate the performance.
To The Dam has a deep empathy for the impact of events on one woman’s life, and great credit must go to Clarke for his skilful writing and subtle understanding of the subject. This is a great play, with a stunning performance that will stay with me for some time to come.
Words: Andrew Anderson
Wednesday, 23 July 2014
The premise is pretty simple: Jake wants to go to university and get out of Manchester while his girlfriend Maddie (Natasha Davidson) is quite happy where she is, glad to be young and in love. Caught in this clash is newly qualified teacher Louise (Joanna Hinton), a tutor to Jake and a potential rival for his affections as far as Maddie is concerned. The three strong wills go to war, with inevitable break-ups, make-ups, and break downs as Jake takes his final exams. The question is, will he pass?
Pass’ storyline works well and the dialogue has strong moments, as with the quoted line at the start of this review. However, the quality is not consistent throughout and is occasionally clunky rather than quick and charismatic; a drama like this needs a real feel for how young people speak and a sense of their energy. That said, both Rodgers and Davidson did well with the material and made believable teens, which is not an easy assignment for an actor.
As to the direction, the pacey scene changes gave a feeling of life flashing by, but the sudden snaps of sound used to punctuate these didn’t quite work, preventing a mood from developing; it was hard to get lost in the play. It was also a tricky piece to see in thrust staging, as several key moments happened at the far reaches of the stage where they could not be seen so well from the other side.
Pass succeeds in capturing that feeling that fifteen is everything, that there is no time to lose and you’ve got to have it all right now – an impatience for life to begin. While it has some weaknesses there is also enough to suggest that this play can be improved, and that those involved have potential.
Words: Andrew Anderson
Image: Courtesy of 24:7
Sunday, 13 July 2014
It is said that if you knew when you'd die you'd go mad. But the madness of not knowing when you can live again is itself a form of death. That's what an Irishman, and Englishman and an American find out when they're imprisoned by unseen terrorists with unknown motives for an indefinite amount of time in Frank McGuinness' play Someone Who'll Watch Over Me.