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All Because of Molly, Organised Chaos productions, at The Lowry, Salford Quays

Published by: Caroline May on 5th Sep 2011 | View all blogs by Caroline May

REVIEWED BY RICHARD HOWELL-JONES

Be warned! The programme notes tell us that this is an ‘issue’ play, but whatever you think the issue is as the performance begins, you’re going to be wrong. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the theatre…

This makes All Because of Molly, touring the North-West until 18th September (see below), a slightly difficult production to write about without ‘spoilers’ (as Doctor Who aficionados call them) or giving away the twist – one so truthful in its suddenness that many of us, I suspect, will remember our own moments of catastrophe, in the true sense of the word. One moment life is bumbling along much as normal; the next, it is changed, changed utterly.

Whether a terrible beauty is born as a result depends, of course, on the production, the leads in particular bearing a heavy burden. Alison Flevill and Laura Lindsay (who has a flair for one-liners) work tirelessly to portray Jaime and Casey who decide to become friends after a typical, and intelligently-portrayed, bullying incident at nursery school. This friendship develops throughout their lives, though attempts to show this by one character finishing another’s lines or both speaking the same line simultaneously just don’t come off. Nor does the friendship seem as deep as both profess it to be, the development of the play notwithstanding. The writer, Paul Ferguson, tell us that he spent much time learning about women, and the accuracy of his characters gives us no reason to doubt him, but perhaps he might have balanced this with time taken in selecting his scenes more carefully; too many are small girls talking about small girl things, and lack evident plot or character development.

The nursery-school bully is the Molly of the title, a typically unpleasant early-years brat, the first and most convincing of Christabel Brown’s many supporting characters.

As the performance continues, she and Tamira Hamam populate the rest of the friends’ world with a rapid-fire set of characterisations, of assorted ages and either gender, to such an enjoyable extent that the main characters are at risk of being upstaged. Indeed, this happens in a highly-enjoyable scene at a gym where the ‘jurors’ (as the supporting actors are called in the programme for no apparent reason) play a personal trainer and her suffering client, while the leads talk about something which I completely missed, but of which, crucially, I didn’t feel the lack; nor did this omission seem to affect my understanding of the rest of the play. The leads’ performances were doubtless as consistently good as they were throughout, but the supports had more interesting lines, action and, at that point, characters.

Staging was a simple black box set with four white cubes with hinged lids doing double-duty as set and prop store. Someone had decided that each change of ‘scene’ should be marked by a loud bang as a lid was closed. Perhaps the technical crew hadn’t been given a script, as most bangs seemed to be followed immediately by a sound or light cue – certainly, the audience didn’t feel the need for them.

And so it goes until suddenly…

Molly, appearing from nowhere, causes the lurch into a completely different world, and there were certainly some members of the audience who were moved by that world and the dénouement. But not all. Again, Flevill and Lindsay did some convincing work, but what ought to have been a scene to make a stone distraught left too many in the audience unmoved. Clearly, at the curtain call, some felt a standing ovation was in order – but not all, by no means all.

It’s a pity, because the ‘issue’ is one guaranteed to polarise opinion, but All Because of Molly left many feeling unchallenged, though not unentertained. Perhaps, just as Jaime is caught between friendship and professionalism, the play is caught between polemic and realism, with the outcome equally regrettable, the feeling that ‘there should’ve been a better way’. The play is also very short, not much over an hour, & the ‘issue’ seems squeezed in at the end.

And what of Molly? We learn nothing of her, nor about the course her life took between her appearances at the beginning and the end of the events in the play. She is the catalyst, the raison d’etre, the – if we’re honest – McGuffin.

James Baker directed.

 

All Because of Molly

Presented by Organised Chaos productions

North-West tour, 8 – 18th Sept:

New Continental, Preston, 8th Sept. 01772-499425

The Lantern Theatre, Liverpool, 9 – 10th Sept. 0151-703 0000

Square Chapel, Halifax, 15th Sept. 01422-349422

Studio Theatre at Pavilion Arts Centre, Buxton, 18th Sept. 0845-127 2190

www.organisedchaosproductions.co.uk

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