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24:7 Theatre Festival, Manchester

Published by: Caroline May on 24th Jul 2013 | View all blogs by Caroline May
Away from Home

Away From Home

Performer and co-writer Rob Ward is quite clear about his reasons for writing this play: “As a gay man and a passionate football supporter, I have struggled for many years to make the two aspects of my life fit comfortably given the homophobia endemic in football culture and the fact that there are no openly gay players for gay fans to look up to.” 

In this one-man tour-de-force he plays Kyle, a young, gay football fan who, while being open with his family and friends about his sexuality, has told no one about his work as a male escort. 

Kyle becomes involved with one of his clients, a top football player who has just signed to a local team.  The burdens of secrecy and conflicted feelings as a devoted fan (Kyle supports the city’s other club), as well as pressure from his estranged family, lead Kyle on a spiral of self-destruction.

Away from Home is far grittier than Jonathan Harvey’s iconic gay play Beautiful Thing - the characters are much less likable, not least Kyle and his visceral (and to me incomprehensible) feelings about the beautiful game.  Written with the hugely experienced Martin Jameson (who also directs), the script pulls no punches with its graphic descriptions of gay sex, drunken violence and interminable match commentaries.

Rob Ward brilliantly ventriloquises a veritable cavalcade of characters, although I thought making Kyle a male escort distracted from the issue of homophobia - even the most liberal-minded parent might have raised an eyebrow at that.  I even had a sneaking feeling that his football playing lover might have had a more moving story to tell.  However the packed audience were hugely enthusiastic, delivering a standing ovation as the house lights dimmed.


Night on the Field of Waterloo

Night on the Field of Waterloo

This play does what it says on the tin: two soldiers’ wives, just widowed in Wellington’s great victory, are stranded on the dark and muddy battlefield among the dead and the dying and wondering what to do with the rest of their lives.

Thomas Bloor’s characters are a chalk-and-cheese partnership - Del and Rodney Trotter in empire-line frocks.  Nel is an unsentimental hustler who is out for what she can get, while Tosh is slower on the uptake but with a bigger heart.

As a lover of costume drama I really warmed to the way that the writer abandoned the potentially static, if realistic, nature of his setting and headed straight for out-and-out melodrama with the introduction of a runaway English heiress, pregnant by her French lover, being pursued by her psychotic brother through the corpse-strewn setting.

Holly Fishman Crook is given the opportunity to show Nel is not merely one-dimensional during her poignant scene with a dying soldier (affecting Eddie Capli), while Louise Bloor as Tosh has a real gift for comedy in addition to her lovely singing voice.


Blunted

Blunted

Alice Brockway’s drama (in which she also stars) is about Tess, a musician suffering from severe depression following the murder of her husband, Mike.  Life has lost all meaning as it seems probable that Mike’s attackers are the deprived local kids whom Tess was trying to help with music lessons.  Now Tess is attempting to reconcile her bleeding-heart-liberal side with an instinctive hatred for her husband’s killers, and the struggle has stifled her artistic muse.

The play raises important questions about the value of life, middle-class guilt, the point of art, the role of friendship, dependent relationships and moving on from grief.  This is a huge amount of content, and by the end of the character’s journey I felt as if I’d watched a five-part Channel 4 drama in one sitting.

Thankfully Blunted isn’t remorselessly dark and depressing, and Alice Brockway’s bantering dialogue shows that buried beneath Tess’s miserable exterior there remains the witty, fun-loving woman she used to be.  Her artist friend Evie (a manic pixie dream girl whose soul has apparently been possessed by the devil) is outrageously portrayed by Lowri Vivian, while Andrew Fillis gives a solidly convincing performance as the reliable, reasonable Glen.


Temper

Temper

Richard O’Neill’s claustrophobic three-hander set in an Oldham council flat shows the unlikely and ultimately disintegrating relationship between a young art-school graduate (Calum) and a local older woman (Debs).  Having set up a classic “ticking time-bomb” dramatic device in the opening scene, the writer constantly disrupts the tense situation with interruptions from Calum’s garrulous neighbour, Mick, and the noises off from a warring couple upstairs.

There is some excellent acting in this piece.  Jane Leadbetter is glamorous and grounded as the deceived Debs, and Andrew Madden is extremely sympathetic as the fish-out-of-water Calum.  Taran Knight steals every scene he is in as the dippy Mick, with his set of adjustable spanners and instant catchphrases.  Richard O’Neill vividly captures the poetry of everyday speech with Mick’s hilarious dialogue.

Although the graphically spelled out message at the end of the play doesn’t seem justified by what has actually been seen on stage, Temper is worth enjoying for its strong ensemble of actors.


Daylight Robbery


Daylight Robbery

Manchester, 1888: newly promoted inspector of detectives, Jerome Caminada, is up to his eyes in trouble.  As well as having to deal with a series of robberies, there is the unidentified corpse wearing somebody else’s clothes which has been fished out of the river; militant suffragettes are giving him a hard time over meat paste sandwiches; he’s been receiving bad reviews in the Manchester Guardian; and now his boss is expecting results fast.

Narrated from start to finish by the lead character, Marcus McMillan’s Caminada has a no-nonsense yet twinkly delivery not unlike the avuncular Shaw Taylor presenting Police 5.  It felt good to be in a safe pair of hands.  Meanwhile six other actors were charged with bringing to life the diverse range of characters that inhabited Manchester during its industrial heyday, from the lowlife to the highlife and all points in between.

Daylight Robbery comes from the pen of Micheal Jacob, who has over twenty years’ experience of working in TV comedy.  Unsurprisingly then this is a very sound script: the rapidly changing scenes blend seamlessly, the dialogue has an authentic nineteenth-century ring about it, and the large cast of characters are expertly marshalled.  Francesca Waite is especially versatile and convincing in her trio of roles.  Joseph Caminada was a real detective in Victorian Manchester - could this play be the first of a series?

Until Friday

www.247theatrefestival.co.uk has all the show information including video trailers

Tickets
 

£8/£6 (conc): book online from the 247 website (or turn up at the venues)
 
Venues

24:7 Theatre FestivalNew Century House, Mayes Street entrance M60 4ES (200 metres from The Printworks, a stone’s throw from Victoria Station and Shudehill interchange)

Three Minute Theatre, Afflecks Arcade, 39 Oldham St M1 1JG

2022NQ, The Basement, 20 Dale St M1 1EZ

Comments

1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 4 years ago
    Thanks, Caroline. This is extensive coverage of an exciting and diverse festival of theatre. I'm really proud to have this coverage here on UK Theatre Network.
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