Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Your Best Guess - HOME, Manchester.




What is normality? It's when things are usual and expected. But, how can that noun exist when life can change in the blink of an eye?

Chris Thorpe has collaborated with Jorge Andrade from Mala Voadora Company to explore these existential ideas in this evening's performance of Your Best Guess.

It's a show for adults who constantly plan for the future (which really is all of us). Sometimes plans turn out how you want them to and sometimes they don't, whether that be for the best or not. Life changes, relationships change, even to the point where before you know it, it's "like a different film". The performance centered around the true life story of Chris Thorpe and his partner Laura, and their children Michael and Lily. Intersecting this are anecdotes performed by Jorge Andrade, investigating unpredictability, some of them are about ghost cities, sport betting, and suicide.

As soon as I arrived into Home's main theatre space, Thorpe and Andrade were already onstage ready to perform. As everyone else arrived, Thorpe greeted the audience and played songs requested by them. I had some ideas about what he might have been trying to do creatively with this opening, however it soon became clear that he was just trying to establish an intimate environment. While this was successful, I did think more song requests could have been taken, and Thorpe could have talked to the audience a little bit more.

For the most part, the show was in an interview style.  Andrade asked Thorpe questions about his life, which was effective as this format teased lots of detail out of his story. Andrade had the role of an audience member, an outside observer asking the questions we wanted to hear the answers to. There were some random and insightful observations made about life, which occasionally provided dry and dark humour. The script was rich with an eclectic variety of writing styles: from spoken work, to song lyrics, to a goodbye letter. I'm not going to reveal the context surrounding this letter, but the performance beautifully built up to the scene where Thorpe read it out. It was a wholeheartedly moving theatrical moment.

There was an emphasis on the words, stories, and text in this production because of the simple and functional purpose of the set. We could see a table, two chairs, some microphones, a laptop, and recording equipment on the stage. The experimentation with sound and pre-recorded text provided points in time that were atmospheric and thought provoking. There was a point where lots of random songs were played on shuffle, which nicely related back to the theme of unpredictability. Thorpe and Andrade's performance style was intimate, almost casual, which suited the piece well and drew the audience in. Although, this felt a little out of place in the big main theatre space, and I think this show would have been more suitable for the upstairs studio.

This was a performance with a series of narratives where events either ended up happening as planned or life went wide off the mark. It was a piece of theatre which was unexpectedly varied because it was dark-humoured, beautiful, surprising, sad, poetic, and sinister. Life really is a fickle thing.

Reviewer - Sam Lowe
on - 11/6/18



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