07 June 2012

Piece by piece

May was something of a theatre-going month. Aside from taking part in Contact's 24 Arty People shindig with a load of performers last weekend (OK, technically that was June, but hey), I've also been audience side quite a bit.

First off, was Analogue's 2401 Objects at The Lowry, which had come recommended and most definitely didn't disappoint. About a young man undergoing early, rather botchy, brain surgery, the play doesn't have the most cheery of subject matter, but it was dealt with in such a way as to make it engaging on both an intellectual and an emotive level. It was a really clever production, too, with a screen moving backwards and forwards on stage to aid set and character changes, divide locations and infer distance (emotionally as well as geographically) - a resourceful device for a three-hander. Shame it was in Salford for one night only (on tour after its Edinburgh debut), else I would have recommended it to other folk.

Next up was Lady's Windermere's Fan at the Royal Exchange (on until 21 June). The acting was fantastic (particularly loved Bernice Stegers' hammy Duchess and Oliver Gomm's cheeky Cecil) and the costumes were sumptuous, but unfortunately the set design wasn't up to the Royal Exchange's usual standards (though I do think we're often spoilt!), and Oscar Wilde's script fell rather flat, seeming a bit dated and dull. I'm afraid high society farce doesn't really cut the mustard in the age of austerity, and I couldn't empathise with any of the characters, even the ones who supposedly deserved it. Still, at least I do now know where that line about lying in the gutter and looking at the stars comes from, so I left with more than I went with.

Finally, last week I popped to see the first of two one-off Works Ahead shows at Contact, presenting pieces in development by three performance artists: Lowri Evans, Gareth Cutter and Krissi Musiol. I felt really immersed in Live Letter by Evans, where visual aids and projected text and line drawings described the memory of a relationship being stored away as keepsakes. It seemed a very personal piece, yet one to which the audience could easily relate. Cutter's Even The Lone Ranger Had Tonto was like a sad cabaret, telling a tale of lost love through nostalgic pop culture references, while Musiol's (unfortunately over-long) Blue had its own hark back to happier times, successfully using basic ballet moves as a structure on which to hang the narrative. A very diverse mix.

Next week, I'm off to the Library Theatre's Number One First Street site-specific Manchester Lines - a friend has had a sneak preview and it promises to be quite something, so we shall see...

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