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Faith and Cold Reading

Published by: Steve Burbridge on 12th Feb 2011 | View all blogs by Steve Burbridge

L-R Laura Norton, Stephen Tompkinson and Paul Joseph in Faith & Cold Reading by Shaun Prendergast.jpg

Faith and Cold Reading

Live Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne

Attending the press performance of Faith and Cold Reading was an experience that, I’m certain, will stay with me for a very long time. It was also one that I have been unable to properly define in my own mind yet. You see, with this production, you don’t actually get what it promises on the tin. What am I on about, for heaven’s sake, you’re probably thinking? Well, I’ll try to explain as best I can.

You know when you are sitting with a box of assorted chocolates and you have studied the illustrations on the lid, made your selection, and popped your preferred choice into your mouth only to discover that you’re chewing on a coffee cream when you thought you’d actually picked the cherry liqueur? Well, this play looks like a cherry liqueur, but it’s actually a coffee cream – or is it a caramel keg? Who knows?

You see, it plays with genres so much and switches metaphorical horses so often that I was convinced that even writer Shaun Prendergast wasn’t at all certain what kind of play he’d penned. Is it a thriller? Is it a comedy? Is it a spoof? Your guess is probably as good as mine, I think.

The play tells the story of Sam (Christopher Patrick Nolan), a professional medium who lives with lap dancer Carla (Laura Norton). He has ended up getting himself into debt to Freddie the Suit (Stephen Tompkinson), a big-time gangster who has recently buried his mother. Sam is unable to pay back the money by the due date and his situation looks bleak until Freddie throws him a lifeline: re-connect him with his late mother in spirit and the debt will be written-off.

Stephen Tompkinson has a thoroughly imposing stage presence as the overly-superstitious Freddie (refusing to walk on pavement cracks and getting into a right old state when new shoes are placed upon the table – heavily borrowed from Blood Brothers, I suspect) and he gives an intense performance that is, often, very affecting. It is, undoubtedly, due to his considerable talent that the character of Freddie – which is, seemingly, written as a cross between the Kray’s and Count Dracula – is so much more than just a stereotype.

Laura Norton, too, gives a great performance as Carla. Always believable, and with a genuine likeability, she endows the character with humanity and vulnerability. Christopher Patrick Nolan bumbles brilliantly as the charlatan who will do anything to save his own skin, whilst Paul Joseph attempts valiantly to breathe believability into the stereotypical character of Mickey, the thug.

The promotional material describes Faith and Cold Reading as ‘gripping, sinister and savagely funny’ and, to be fair, it is – though never all at the same time and not throughout the entirety of the piece. The dialogue is often clichéd and melodramatic and doesn’t always sound feasible. However, if you want an entertaining evening out and are prepared to take the play with more than just a pinch of salt, you shouldn’t be disappointed.

Steve Burbridge.

Runs until Saturday 19 March 2011.






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