Friday, 21 December 2018

REVIEW: Fight Like A Girl - The King's Arms, Salford

Andy Pilkington had set himself one massive challenge - to organise and produce an evening of new writing in aid of a charity which is very close to his heart, Cancer Research, since the evening was dedicated to both a close friend of his who is still fighting but now thankfully on the upward spiral, and his Auntie Val, who sadly lost her fight last month. But it was their inspiration and courage which empowered Pilkington, and to his absolute credit produced an amazing evening of diverse and interesting pieces and performances.

Not only did he produce all of this but he also took on the role of MC for the evening. His patter and manner were delightful, pitching his voice and his repartee just right. Information given in a very self-effacing manner, and kept the jokes short and sweet, meaning in short, he was a perfect host.

The show itself saw 8 short plays and one (or two, if you count Pilkington's hilarious rendition of 'The Handshake') performance poetry, and still managed to be over by 10:00pm.

In all, the evening employed 8 directors, 8 writers, 1 poet, and 23 actor / actresses. The plays ranged from the deeply moving and tragic, dealing with infant death, to the utterly bizarre world of a Blind Date game in a brothel, with a whole mix of generally more light-hearted material in between, and finishing on a Christmas-themed piece which saw Father Christmas take a break from delivering presents to take the time to bring love and harmony into a somewhat dysfunctional family.

One of the short plays even brought a very dystopian view to life after Brexit. A comedy which saw guerrilla style warfare (on a very British housewife kind of scale) between The Remainers (who now wanted to leave) and The Leavers (who were now remaining). I last saw this play performed in the same venue as part of this year's G M Fringe, and thought then, as I still do, that it has the potential to be developed further, although it does work well as a short.

Over the course of the three nights Fight Like A Girl is being performed at The King's Arms, a different poet is asked to perform a short set. This evening it was the turn of Robert Stevenson, and his rather political and satirical look at Manchester through 'The Jobseekers' Blues' and 'An Ode To Abduls' were well observed and funny. It was his very clever univocal poem 'Cashback' (a poem which uses only one vowel - in this case 'a') which was most interesting though.

Of the plays this evening, my two favourites were without question the plays which started both acts. To begin with we saw 'Flirty Dancing', a play written and directed by Aileen Quinn, which saw three finalists in a new TV show 'Flirty Dancing' perform their final audition to camera, whilst one of the show's directors gives them instructions on how to act, speak, react, working solely on racial stereotype and looks. A biting satire on the fashion / entertainment industry in general, cleverly observed and excellently acted by Brianna Douglas, Rachael Gill-Davis, Lizzie Lawrence and Abey Bradbury. Opening the second act was Andy Pilkington in yet another guise, as writer and director; and his anarchic, off the wall comedy writing gained the best belly laughs and the biggest applause of the evening. This was in no small part due to the excellent acting of those taking part in the 'Brothel Blind Date'. Andy Avery played a 35-year-old virgin who needed to 'get it over with', and was given the choice between three contestants, a young drug-addict soaring on a high (Kathryn Stirton), A 70 year old sex-addicted, in-between knitting and sleeping of course!, woman (Hilly Barber) and an overtly OTT homosexual (Craig Thompson), or indeed he could always choose the brothel Madame herself, (Julie Root). Hilarious, and needs to be seen to be believed!

That is not to say that the other plays were poor or uninteresting - far from it. The evening was a delight from start to finish, but I simply cannot find room to write about and credit all. From what I understand this event is hopefully the first of many which Pilkington hopes to produce in the future to continue raining funds for Cancer Research. If this trend does continue then it will not only do that but hopefully raise the profile of many up-coming writers, directors, and actors living in the city too.

Bravo signor Pilkington, I look forward to your next endeavour.

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 20/12/18

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