Review – The Ghost Train

Brilliantly funny, the audience loved it – at The Royal Exchange

 

four stars

 

It’s a strong 4/5 for The Ghost Train. Our theatre reviewer Lorna loved it – in her view it’s definitely going to be a popular one!

 

Over to you Lorna ……

Lorna McBride

 

Ghost Train is a frightfully funny affair!

On a dark and stormy night in the 1920s a group of strangers find themselves stranded at a railway station in the middle of nowhere.

And a beastly night at the station it turns out to be too, when they find out there’s not a train until 7am the next morning.

 

Station Master Saul Hodgkin, brilliantly played by Amanda Hadingue, is in a hurry to get going himself – because come 11pm strange and supernatural things start to occur.

 

Amanda-Hadingue-as-Saul-Hodgkin-in-THE-GHOST-TRAIN-Royal-Exchange-until-20-June.-Photo-Jonathan-Keenan

 

Saul tells the group of a rail disaster that happened years before – seared into local folklore, where the stationmaster before him dropped down dead at that very station from the shock of it all, his lamp still lit in his hand.

For newlyweds Peggy and Charles Murdock it isn’t how they imagined starting their honeymoon – stranded with strangers! Strangers which include bickering couple the Winthrop’s, know it all cad about town Teddie Deakin and Mrs Bourne, the eccentric parrot-wielding spinster.

 

THE GHOST TRAIN Royal Exchange until 20 June. Photo Jonathan Keenan

 

Paranoia quickly sets in as the group quickly start to believe old Saul’s tale was true. Cue a rip-roaring night of hysterical – hysteria that will have you laughing and checking over your shoulder in equal measure.

The staging and sound is brilliantly done and Told By An Idiot theatre company certainly excelled at bringing the play to life in the round. The whole cast are strong throughout, although a special mention should go to Javier Marzan, who puts in an excellently comedic performance as the character of Mrs Bourne.

 

Calum Finlay as Teddie Deakin in THE GHOST TRAIN by Arnold Ridley - Royal Exchange Theatre until 20 June. Photo Jonathan Keenan (3)

 

Amanda Hadingue as Julia Price in THE GHOST TRAIN by Arnold Ridley Royal Exchange until 20 June. Photo Jonathan Keenan

 

And another top tit bit – Ghost Train was originally written by Arnold Ridley, aka Priavte Charles Godfrey of Dad’s Army fame.

Jump aboard and don’t miss what is set to be one of the best shows at the Royal Exchange this year!

The Ghost Train runs from 14th May – 20th June 2015. For more information and to book tickets click here.

 

Lorna x

 

Photographs: Jonathan Keenan for The Royal Exchange

 

 

 

 

 

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Review – Children’s Touring Partnership at The Lowry

 

three stars

 

Our theatre reviewer Lorna expected to be in floods of tears, but none of the characters quite got her there.

 

Over to you Lorna ……

Lorna McBride

 

Brought to the stage for the first time, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a Second World War tale of an unlikely friendship between two young boys.

Bruno, the son of a German Commandant finds himself and his family uprooted from Berlin to Poland for his father’s job promotion and desperately missing his ‘three best friends for life’.

 

In search of adventure and someone to play with, Bruno comes across a high barbed wire fence and on the other side of it, a boy his own age but much thinner and smaller called Shmuel.

 

Boy in the striped pyjamas

 

Shmuel tells Bruno there are hundreds more people on his side of the fence, all wearing scruffy blue and white ‘pyjamas’ just like him.

He tells Bruno how he was forced to leave his home and brought here with his family – ‘just like what happened to me’, Bruno remarks.

Bruno sneaks away from his house to see Shmuel as often as he can, and starts taking Smmuel food as he always seems hungry. In his naivety Bruno wishes he could be on that side of the fence too and have people to play with.

 

Boy in the striped pyjamas

 

With over 6 million Jewish and up to 5 million more minority groups killed during the Holocaust, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas should serve to bring a human aspect to those unimaginable statistics as it narrows in on the individual stories of Bruno and Shmuel as their friendship forms.

The staging is minimal and should also serve to let the powerful story break through.

However, sadly this adaptation does not seem to illicit the emotional response I expected it to, as it is difficult to empathise with any of the characters, even Shmuel.  It seems to scratch the surface but no character truly grips you – even my hatred for the Commandant was minimal as isn’t portrayed as dark or imposing enough.

 

Boy in the striped pyjamas

 

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, while a fictional novel, is a Key Stage 3 level school text for 11 – 14 year olds. Difficult as it must be to portray anything Holocaust related on stage and for a young audience to fully understand the horrors of the genocide, it is none the less important that there should be an accessible starting point. I just think this adaptation seems to be more on the safe side rather than provoking what may sometimes be challenging but none the less important questions of humanity and morality.

For more information about this production of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, click here.

Lorna x 

 

Photographs: The Lowry

 

 

 

Rebecca at The Lowry

Review – amongst the best we’ve seen

 

5 stars

 

Our theatre reviewer Lorna absolutely loved this production of Rebecca at The Lowry, giving it our top five star rating!

 

Over to you Lorna ……

Lorna McBride

 

Daphne Du Maurier’s bestselling 1938 novel Rebecca is brought to life in all it’s wicked jealousy by Kneehigh Theatre Company.

The evocative staging brings to life Manderley, the looming estate by the sea which is home to Maxim de Winter and his young new wife Mrs de Winter II.

 

 

Penned by Du Maurier as ‘a study of jealousy’ Rebecca explores what it is like to be a second wife living in the shadow of first – all the more difficult given that the memory of the first Mrs DW is not easily forgotten, especially by the sinisterly devoted housekeeper Mrs Danvers.

 

Rebecca at The Lowry

Rebecca at The Lowry

 

Young, meek and inexperienced, seemingly the polar opposite to the vivacious and carefree original Lady of the Manor, wife number two struggles to see how she can live up to a life of running an estate and managing an army of staff.

She is soon to discover that not all is what it seems and that Rebecca’s shadow cannot loom over her indefinitely.

The play encapsulates both darkness and humour in just the right balance, with the comedic butler’s assistant Robert (excellently played by Katy Owen) sure to be a firm favourite with audiences.

While director Emma Rice’s vision for Mrs de Winter (Imogen Sage) to be portrayed as more than just the one dimensional victim/wife to a man/ female is achieved with stark clarity.

 

Rebecca at The Lowry

Rebecca at The Lowry

 

The sound and staging alone makes the play worth going to see. A challenging and brilliant set visibly energises the cast. While the musical accompaniments will have me humming twisted, dark sea shanties while dancing the Charleston for days to come.

If you love the novel you’ll love the play. If you’ve enjoyed the Hitchcock film version of Rebecca – and you’re not my boyfriend – then this is definitely one to see!

 

Rebecca runs from 7th – 11th April 2015. For more information and to book tickets, click here.

 

 

Lorna x

 

Photographs: The Lowry via Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cirque Surreal The Voyagers

Review – Circus theatre that didn’t quite hang together at The Lowry

 

three stars

 

After a short break, our regular theatre reviewer Lorna is back – and this time it’s to review a performance that’s all tied up in knots!

 

Over to you Lorna ……

Lorna McBride

 

Cirque Surreal The Voyagers is described as a dynamic fusion of circus, dance, drama and comedy.

Leading performance artistes from over 10 countries have come together for the first time in this internationally acclaimed production, which follows the modern fable of five Voyagers travelling through space and time under powerful mystical lunar influences beyond their control.

 

While the artists and performers are undoubtedly fantastic in their own right, the show didn’t feel like it hung together well and it was very much like watching separate acts in a variety show.

 

Cirque Surreal

 

The concept of immigration and integration which started and ended the show felt very much like misplaced bookends rather than a comprehensive narrative woven throughout.

Having said that the show is geared for a primarily family audience and the children in the audience loved the comedy of the clowns and the daring elements of the other acts in equal measure.

 

Cirque Surreal

 

The aerial acts and acrobats were amazing and had me on the edge of my seat. It would be unfair to say that I was not impressed by the individual performers themselves, however having seen various circus performances elsewhere I feel that the performers were let down by the overall weakness of the ‘voyager’ concept, which just didn’t come through strongly enough.

Part of my issue may have been that I think that this type of artistry works best in settings other than a theatre with the stage at the front, as the more angles you can see the more you feel involved and amazed. While a more traditional Big Top setting is never fully in the round, the extra degrees it allows the audience, all add to the experience of appreciating how incredible the performers are at what they do.

I would recommend seeing Cirque Surreal if you have children and they’ve not seen anything similar before as an introduction to circus theatre.

 

Cirque Surreal runs from 2nd – 6th April. For more information and to book tickets, click here.

 

Lorna x

 

Photographs: The Lowry

 

Review – Little Shop of Horrors

Blooming fantastic – The Royal Exchange at it’s best

 

5 stars

Our reviewer Lorna absolutely loved this production of Little Shop of Horrors, giving it “5 stars all the way and more if I could”. It definitely sounds like one not to be missed!

 

Over to you Lorna ……

 

Lorna McBride

 

To say I was pretty excited to see Little Shop of Horrors at the Royal Exchange was an understatement.

Well who doesn’t love a 1950’s musical sci-fi horror comedy?

I was intrigued to know how a huge man eating alien plant would translate to a theatre in the round and I was certainly not disappointed!

 

Let the awful plant related puns commence…

 

The shop soon to become one of horrors is Mushnik’s flower shop, a failing florist on Skid Row in 1950’s New York, staffed by hapless assistant Seymour Krelborn.

 

Little Shop of Horrors

 

With the shop facing closure, amateur botanist Seymour persuades Mr Musnik to let him display an unusual and exotic plant he bought from a Chinese flower shop during a solar eclipse.

As you do.

The plant in question is Audrey II, named after his co-worker and the secret object of Seymour’s affections.

 

Gunnar Cauthery as Seymour Krelborn in LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (Royal Exchange Theatre until 31 January 2015). Photo - Jonathan Keenan

 

Seymour soon discovers that Audrey II’s tastes stretch a bit further than Miracle Gro, but the more it grows, the more customers flock to Mushnik’s to get a glimpse of the super plant. Seymour becomes an overnight celebrity and business is better than ever.

Sadly Audrey in human form has some undesirable tastes too, especially when it comes to her boyfriend, sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello.

But will Seymour’s newfound fame win him the girl or will he be at risk of over watering from his own tears?

 

Kelly Price as  Audrey in LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (Royal Exchange Theatre until 31 January 2015).  Photo - Jonathan Keenan

 

The play was certainly no grower; it came into full blossom from the opening note.

The whole cast were perfect together and if it was possible to mention them all I would. Audrey is played superbly and with impressive vocals by Kelly Price (last seen at the Royal Exchange in That Day We Sang), while motorbike-riding dentist Orin Scrivello, is brought to life manically by Ako Mitchell.

The live musical accompaniment makes the play a feel good rock n roll sensation, which will leave you singing aloud long after you’ve left the theatre (and much to the annoyance of anyone in the nearby vicinity).

 

Gunnar Cauthery as  Seymour Krelborn in LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (Royal Exchange Theatre until 31 January 2015). Photo - Jonathan Keenan

 

The star of the show has to be Audrey II. It’s no mean feat to pull off a hugely animated giant man eating alien plant in such an intimate theatre, let alone one in the round, but then again there was no ordinary team behind it.

The brains behind the plant was Toby Olié, super puppeteer and one third of Joey the horse in the original National Theatre production of War Horse.

Under his direction Audrey II is brought to life with true sass by Nuno Silva, who not only provides AMAZING vocals but completely nails the mannerisms and eccentricities you’d expect from a cunningly carnivorous super plant hell bent on world domination.

Not forgetting supporting cast members James Charlton and CJ Johnson, who should get a pat on the plant pot for doing an equally brilliant job in bringing life to Audrey II too.

A standing ovation said it all from the audience and the play will not disappoint in making you utterly uplifted with it’s own macabre charm.

If by the time you’ve gotten to the end of this review and tickets have not sold out completely, GO! Book some immediately! Or you’ll have missed a performance that others will be raving about until well into the New Year.

Little Shop of Horrors runs from 5th December 2014 – 31st January 2015. For more information, to book tickets and for a full cast list, click here.

 

Lorna x

 

Photographs: Jonathan Keenan for The Royal Exchange

 

 

 

Over The Garden Fence

Our review – short but sweet and very funny

 

four stars

 

Manchester is blessed with many fantastic theatres – big, small, conventional and unusual.

 

This week saw our reviewer Lorna visit a new pop-up venue for a thoroughly endearing production.

 

Over to you Lorna ……

 

Lorna McBride

 

Over The Garden Fence at pop up theatre New Playhouse is situated in the Great Northern complex right on Deansgate.

What was an empty shop space under one of the archways has been turned into a brilliant and intense theatre setting, showcasing new writing and independent productions.

 

Over the Garden Fence

 

It was the perfect setting to see Over the Garden Fence, a brilliant two-woman show written and performed by Hayley Riley and Louise Evans, about the simultaneously tragic and comedic aspects of dementia.

The play follows Annabelle and her grandmother Dolly, retracing memories and moments in Dolly’s life, up to the present day and outlining the onset of her dementia.

If you have ever experienced anyone close to you develop dementia, you will know that while it is a devastating illness for both the person and their loved ones to deal with, it produces all kinds of moments which can be ridiculous in their hilarity.

 

Over the Garden Fence

 

They do say if you don’t laugh you’ll cry – and that’s the balance Riley and Evans strike in Over the Garden Fence. The play chronicles flashbacks of Dolly’s life, including those memories recalled several times with opposing descriptions. Such as when Dolly met Annabelle’s grandfather on a beautiful sunny day, or was it during the storm to end all storms?

It also tersely confronts the way in which society views not only dementia but also what is perceived to be ‘normal’ behaviour. This is explored brilliantly through the chit-chat and gossip of Dolly’s neighbours – conducted like Chinese whispers over their garden fences.

The neighbour’s snapshots of Dolly’s increasingly erratic or unusual behaviour magnifies that there is still a huge way to go in societal understanding and care for those with such conditions. Often when people are uninformed, or even fearful of something, the default reaction is to have your two penneth anyway – and while no malice may be intended by neighbours, some of whom were once friends of Dolly, ultimately their reactions are the most sombre parts of the production.

 

Over the Garden Fence

 

While the majority of the play takes place inside Dolly’s front room and inside her not yet forgotten memories, granddaughter Annnabelle maintains patience and humour as she helps her grandmother come to terms with some of the harsher realities of her failing mind.

While I think there is still room for development in both the main characters, the play was thoroughly well thought out and humour certainly came in the right dose at the right times. The uncomplicated set and strong acting means I look forward to seeing much more from the duo and Haylo Theatre Company is definitely one to watch our for.

For more information about about Haylo Theatre click here.

 

Lorna x

 

Photographs: Haylo

 

 

 

 

 

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Our review – the Royal Exchange has had finer moments

 

2 stars

I’ve read a number of other reviews for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at The Royal Exchange – to say that they are mixed is an understatement. Some loved it, while others weren’t fans.

It’s worth pointing out that reviews are an opinion – you might love it. Sadly our Theatre reviewer Lorna wasn’t so keen.

 

Over to you Lorna ……

Lorna McBride

 

Cat On a Hot Tin Roof is a Pulitzer prize winning play by Tennessee Williams.

Set on a cotton planation in the early 1950’s, it explores themes of truth, greed, repression and family dynamics.

The play takes places in the bedroom of the unhappily married Brick and Maggie.

 

With questions over Brick’s sexuality hanging in the air, and following the suicide of his beloved friend, Brick spirals into depression and starts drinking himself to death as Maggie desperately tries to pull him back – more for the sake of Brick’s inheritance and financial stability than for love.

 

Mariah Gale as Maggie in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (Royal Exchange Theatre until  29 November). Photo - Jonathan Keenan

 

It is also the birthday of ‘Big Daddy’ Pollitt, whose own fading mortality sets the family feuding over his 28,000 acre estate, which he certainly isn’t ready to let go of it to his second rate first born Gooper, nor can he entrust it to his favourite son, the now alcoholic Brick.

I found the play hard to sit through as all of the main characters were completely unlikeable and even the larger than life ‘Big Mama’ started to grate on me by the end.

The portrayal of Gooper (Matthew Douglas), along with wife Mae (Victoria Elliot) as the dutiful son and daughter in law, biding their time and expecting to receive Big Daddy’s fortune, only to be told bluntly by his father that it would never be his, was the only good thing about the play.

 

Dara O'Malley as Big Daddy in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (Royal Exchange Theatre until  29 November). Photo - Jonathan Keenan

 

Sadly none of the performers stood out for the right reasons and Charles Aitken’s Brick seemed to be the only one to nail the Southern American accent consistently throughout the play, while other niggling slips from the rest of the cast were off putting to the performance and brought me crashing straight from the deep South back to Manchester.

Also, as an aside, I absolutely disagreed with the constant smoking of cigarettes and cigars during the performance and rather than setting the scene and making the play authentic, I found it too much to tolerate, especially given I was near an aisle and seemed to inhale more of one character’s cigar smoke than him.

 

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof runs from 30th October – 29th November 2014. For more information, to book tickets and for a full cast list, click here.

 

Lorna x

 

Photographs: Jonathan Keenan for The Royal Exchange

 

 

 

 

 

Iris at Three Minute Theatre

A review of a striking insight into domestic voilence

 

Our theatre reviewer Lorna headed over to Three Minute Theatre (3MT) to check out this disturbing drama.

3.5 stars

 

.

 

Over to you Lorna ……

Lorna McBride

 

Having never seen a performance at the Three Minute Theatre, housed in the bottom of Affleck’s Palace via the Oldham Street entrance, I was very excited when I was invited to review Iris.

3MT, is a fully recycled boutique style theatre – both quirky and intimate in equal measure – which showcases a lot of regional talent in the form of drama, performance, poetry and more.

 

Iris, written by Rebecca-Clare Evans, who also stars as the lead character, was not an easy watch, and nor should it be.

The play, based on real stories, gives a striking glimpse into how a seemingly normal relationship can slowly morph into a nightmare at the hands of a volatile and domineering partner.

 

Iris at 3MT

 

Iris is at first a confident young woman, who is climbing her way up the job ladder and doesn’t need a man to justify her. Spending evenings down the local pub with best friend Sarah and her husband Todd, she has no interest in cat calls or time wasters and is happily focusing on her career.

That is until Todd introduces her to Ben, one of his footie mates. The two are smitten and within six months Ben has moved in with Iris and a meeting with the in laws is already on the cards.

The honeymoon period quickly sours as Ben’s aggressive and controlling nature starts to rear it’s ugly head.

It may be unfathomable to think that one incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute and on average, two women a week are killed by a current or former male partner [1]. What is more unfathomable is that these are only the incidents recorded or reported.

Iris accurately reflects the slow and at first invisible creep of a relationship which becomes a prison, orchestrated by a manipulative partner who systematically cuts her off from her friends and family and the outside world.

Rebecca-Clare Evans played the challenging part of Iris sensitively, from an outgoing young woman to a damaged and frightened shell of her former self.  The part of Ben, played by Mark Smalley, was chillingly executed, as he swang manically between loving boyfriend and explosive sociopath.

The play was hugely emotive and kept the audience in suspended silence thoughout as the relationship worsened and fear for Iris heightened.

The only reason I didn’t give more stars was that I thought the musical additions could have been more carefully considered and at times it took away from some of the more powerful and harrowing scenes rather than added to them.

Iris is at Three Minute Theatre, 35-39 Oldham Street, Manchester, M1 1JG, from 9th – 11th October 2014. For more information and to book tickets click here.

 

Lorna x

 

Photographs: 3MT

 


[1] Women’s Aid http://www.womensaid.org.uk/domestic_violence

 

 

 

Billy Liar at The Royal Exchange

Our review – you’re sure to see a family member you recognise!

 

four stars

 

Our theatre reviewer and culture vulture guest blogger Lorna laughed so much it made her face hurt, giving it a four star review.

 

Over to you Lorna …..

Lorna McBride

 

Based on the 1959 novel by acclaimed writer Keith Waterhouse, Billy Liar tells the troubles of young northern lad Billy Fisher trying to make sense of the world he finds himself in.

The play centres around the Fisher household which consists of Billy, his hardy mother Alice – who seems to let him get away with too much and his hot headed dad Geoffrey, whose levels of patience with his son are quickly diminishing.

 

Billy’s grandmother Florence Boothroyd, who takes her tea by the pint pot and hates food waste, completes the family unit.

Pathological liar and perpetual daydreamer Billy left grammar school only to be unwillingly pushed straight into the world of work by his father, ending up as a lowly clerk at the local undertakers Shadrack and Duxbury.

Bored by his job and the mundanity of his life Billy creates his own fantasy world and lurches from one tall tale to the next, often without the foresight to know he’ll be found out soon enough.

 

Billy Liar Royal Exchange

 

His latest fable to his parents is that he has been offered a job in London, script writing for a comedian they’ve never heard of.  He dreams of moving there to make it big and have his talents recognised.

However it seems he has made commitments elsewhere as he lands himself in the hottest water yet. Billy has managed to find himself engaged to two girls at once, neither of whom he seems particularly fussed with, for it is the ‘scruffy’ and absent Liz to whom his heart truly belongs.

Not to mention the fact that his mother thinks he’s too young to marry and his father gives him an ear bashing about how he’ll ever be able to support a wife!

 

Billy Liar Royal Exchange

 

The contenders in question are the prim and proper Barbara – who is in danger of a vitamin c overdose from the amount of oranges she eats. Boring as much as she is polite, Billy has convinced Barbara they will marry and live in a cottage in Devon. With the ring on her finger and an orange in hand (at all times) Barbara heads to the Fisher household to meet the family.

 

Billy5

In contrast, girlfriend number two is the bolshy and tempestuous Rita, to whom Billy has spun the tale that her engagement ring is at the jewellers for a resize. When Barbara and Rita collide explosively it all goes pear shaped for Billy, then a tragic turn of events bring things back down to earth.

The latest incarnation of Billy Liar, directed by Sam Yates, is perfectly cast with particularly memorable performances from Harry McEntire as Billy and Katie Moore as Rita.

 

Billy Liar Royal Exchange

 

The staging and set is spot on as ever at The Royal Exchange, making you feel immediately at home in the unremarkable and true to the period living room of the Fisher family.

Much like your granny’s house the set immediately relaxes you, but you’re soon disrupted by the entrance of the characters and woken up to the dramas of everyday life from a unique vantage point.

My favourite thing about the play is that the characters and the family dynamics are as true now as they were in the 1960s and I defy anyone not to be able to relate one of the characters to their own family. Whether it’s your hard working dad who swears between every other word and is losing his hair an at alarming rate; or your grandma who lived through the aftermath of a world war and can’t understand why the youth of the next generation dare whinge over a thing – typified by my own nana’s favourite catchphrase “you don’t know you’re born”.

 

Billy Liar runs from 13th June – 12th July 2014. For more information, to book tickets and for a full cast list, click here.

 

 

Lorna x

 

Photographs: Jonathan Keenan for The Royal Exchange

 

 

 

 

Britannia Waves The Rules

Review – compelling and emotive theatre at The Royal Exchange

 

5 stars

 

Our theatre reviewer and culture vulture guest blogger Lorna was bowled over by Britannia Waves the Rules, giving it a stellar 5 star review.

 

Over to you Lorna …..

Lorna McBride

 

Britannia Waves The Rules is a compelling and emotive play by Manchester born playwright Gareth Farr.

It tackles our perceptions of war, nationalism and the army head on and it will shake you hard, leaving you questioning your own views long after you’ve left the theatre.

Disillusioned young lad Carl Jackson is Blackpool born but doesn’t want to be Blackpool bred.

He looks around the tired and grey seaside town he grew up in and sees desperation and routine – people like his overweight uncle Charles, who has Blackpool written into his bones like a stick of rock and even his own dad, who took the death of Carl’s mam so badly he grew a beard and retreated into a world of miniature train sets.

Tortured and poetic, Carl is angry at his life and the lack of jobs and general lack of prospects in his no hope town. He is brought down even further by the work shy and lacklustre/ part time drug dealing characters he comes across at the local job centre and feels like he needs a way out. Now.

Commando crawl forward slightly to Carl joining the army and heading overseas to complete his training. He is attracted to the army as a way out of dingy Blackpool and it’s sold to him as a chance to see the world and make more of himself while serving his country.

 

Britannia Waves the Rules

 

During his training, and far removed from the distressing reality of having to use weapons against fellow human beings rather than targets, he seems on top form, enjoying the sunshine and having a laugh with the lads. Until Carl is eventually posted to Afghanistan, where he has little or no choice in both witnessing and perpetuating the horrors of warfare in the most awful of circumstances.

In a dramatic 1.5 hour performance emotional investment is powerfully built up as Carl (brilliantly played by Dan Parr) keeps the audience with him every step of the way, swinging through a limitless spectrum of extremes from rage and indifference to anger and ultimately fear and paranoia.

 

Britannia Waves the Rules

 

What resonates is that we see and hear images of troops and warfare in the news and online nearly every day and yet that enables us to remain fairly distant from the actual impact it has daily on those who are on the ground – on both local people in Afghanistan trying to get on with their lives as best they can and on our troops who are based there.

Carl becomes a revered figure back at home, a ‘local soldier boy’ who’s become a hometown hero and actually had some get up and go.

Young and yet damaged beyond what seems like repair, Carl cannot take any more conflict or suffering and no longer feels like the army is for him, nor does it plug the void he was searching to fill. If anything it has created more of a black hole at risk of swallowing him up – he is no longer a young man trying to make his way in the world. He is a young man who has seen more than any man, young or old, would ever wish to see and leaves us questioning the futility of war and ultimately the humanity or lack of humanity it involves and consumes.

Britannia Waves the Rules is a superb and dramatic performance that is not always an easy watch but a hugely thought provoking one and a must see.

Britannia Waves the Rules runs at The Royal Exchange from 27th May – 7th June 2014.

For more information, to book tickets and for a full cast list, click here.

 

 

Lorna x

 

Photographs: Jonathan Keenan for The Royal Exchange

 

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