Thursday, 16 June 2016

On Corporation Street @ Home, 15.06.16

Where were you on 15th June 1996? It’s a question that we have asked each other when we remember, and try to comprehend the biggest bomb detonation in mainland Britain since WWII. Twenty years later, Mancunians and their adopted cosmopolitans have continued on with their lives, thriving, prevailing. United. It is with this sense of unity that has allowed theatre company ANU to ask us to share our memories, and give them a new existence as the heart of On Corporation Street.

Creators of the sold out award-winning Angel Meadow ANU, have returned to HOME with a new promenade performance, weaving the audience through backstage and basements as they reflect on the Manchester Bombings from a 2016 viewpoint. There is no fourth wall, there is nowhere to hide, the audience are a part of this dreamscape and only one thing is for certain: The opinion you leave with will be your own. I was luckily enough to be familiar with the work of ANU after seeing Angel Meadow in 2014. After wiping away a tear of nostalgia of my first printed theatre review, I knew I had certain expectations (all good ones in case you were wondering), of content and style. I have to admit the feeling of guilty amusement at my confused fellow audience members wondering what is acceptable in a promenade performance: "The character has just asked me a question! What do I do? Argh she is still staring at me”. My advice, roll with it. You are going to get more from the experience if you just invest in the moment.

We are first brought into the auditorium, where we are introduced to all the potential characters we could later meet in person. All make their way to the stage, and create an intense slow motion sequence, impressively creating mini snapshots in the midst of flying glass and the quaking earth. Impressive as it was, it did create a pacing issue for the rest of the production, unless the next interaction the audience has with a character really lands. I can only speak for my group, but our first interface was a ten-minute monologue with a lot of long pauses; in this case two slows don’t make a right. I completely understand the intent behind the delivery; a young man trying to comprehend such senseless destruction. However, I think this would have been more effective if this encounter was in ‘real-time’ akin to the other encounters we are about to move on to. This piece was reflective, such are the audience currently remember that day, whereas our other characters are still taking in and processing something that happened a few hours ago.

Two of my favourite moments came from Jamie Matthewman and Una Kavanagh. In a hot and sticky corridor, we listen through headphones to a soundscape of recollections and 999 emergency calls. As I wince at the voiceover recall 180 people all arriving at A&E, a surgeon (Matthewman) takes a quick breather, enveloped in exhaustion and disbelief. All without speaking a word. A short walk away in a hospital breakroom, we meet a nurse (Kavanagh) still trying to steady herself from feeling the “shaking in the air”. As the rest of the audience sat around the table clad with half eaten digestives and abandoned cups of tea, I stood near our nurse host and noticed a vicious looking bite mark on her arm. She apologies, profusely. She apologies for still being emotional, for talking too much and for being Irish. My heart went out to this character, a woman caught in a dilemma of identity and one she feels ashamed of. A heart-rending performance from McCann and a great finish.

Director Louise Lowe and Artistic Director of ANU, has created another strong and unworldly production with On Corporation Street, and one I can imagine will get a lot of comparison to Angel Meadow. Some that saw Meadow may feel anticipations weren’t met, because this production in many ways isn’t as overwhelming. Angel Meadow had a lot to take in, design wise and narrative; it was all very surreal. Whereas here, the production is very ordinary in a lot of ways, but isn’t that just it? An extraordinary event occurred to people going about their very ordinary days and that makes it so hard to comprehend. What I would say, is the action is far more interesting when we are living it with the characters. We are their shadows, discovering the same things, hearing the same things, and struggling the same way. This may not be as feasible with this reflective piece, but I would have liked to see a bit more of it in this production.

Runs until 25th June

Words: Kate Morris

Photos: Graeme Cooper

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