Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Colder Than Here @ King's Arms, Salford, 03.10.14

Colder Than Here, from writer Laura Wade, is the first production from What A Little Bird Told Me Theatre company. It's a tale of a family coming to terms with a problem that modern medical science had made: knowing - roughly - when you're going to die. Diagnosed with cancer and given a life expectancy of 6 to 9 months, Myra (Joyce Branagh) decides she wants to tie up loose ends and set her family up for when she is gone. However, she is the sun around which her family orbits, the one from whom they get much of the light in their lives. How will they cope once she is gone?

The script, Wade's first published work back in 2005, is well structured, never dwelling on a moment longer than necessary, and is full of both mirth and melancholy. Highlights include recurring visits to potential new-age graveyards (which are invariably described with epithets and expletives), and a short powerpoint presentation given by Myra that details possibilities for her funeral (including glitter throwing). Director Alyx Tole has kept everything simple, so the story moves along at a good pace.

The cast and director have achieved the feeling of a real family in their interplay, which is the single most important thing for a play like Colder Than Here. Leo Atkin is good as the grumpy but caring dad Alec; Rachel Creamer and Laura Danielle Sharp (playing sisters Jenna and Harriet) capture the mixture of needle and nurture that so often exists between siblings; finally, Branagh plays the weary and slightly wacky sides of Myra equally well.

Overall the production was strong, working as a cohesive whole. However, fringe theatre at its best usually takes a few risks, which is what makes it so captivating; what perhaps was lacking from this production was a standout element, something to stray from the safety of simplicity. This, though, is a solid first effort, and will give the company confidence and a good platform to build from. It will be interesting to see what they do next.

Words: Andrew Anderson

Images: Phil Benbow

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