Saturday, 10 August 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: The Community Centre - The King's Arms Theatre, Salford.

This was the first play I've been available to review for a few months, so I was delighted that it was at the Kings Arms, where I myself have performed in the past. The main space, whilst certainly bijou in size, is ideal for "intimate theatre" such as this piece where you, as an audience member, are very close to the action and almost feel part of it.

This proximity is used by the manager and receptionist (Nicola Gardner) as she walks onto the stage, effectively acting as a narrator as well. She sets the scene and welcomes the audience to the Community Centre, telling us about the various and varied activities on offer and encouraging us to try them out. As she talks, the rest of the cast assume their initial positions. She pops in and out at various times during the show, clearly enjoying playing to the assembled throng.

At the back, there is Robbie (Liam Grunshaw), the spliff-smoking White Rastafarian caretaker who is obsessed with Bob Marley. Throughout the play, with him taking centre stage, he talks to a painting of Marley on the side wall (or reciting/singing some of the lyrics!). I really warmed to his quirky portrayal.

The set and action is somewhat static and would benefit from more movement to break things up and add some speed to proceedings. It did drag a little at times.

On one side of the stage, there is a long table occupied by 2 elderly men and 2 older ladies, none of whom are married or related to each other. As becomes clear, they come from the Windrush generation. The 2 men (Tony McPherson and Andrew George) play dominoes and later on unsuccessfully try and teach the 2 women a game of cards. The flirtatious females were played with great vigour by Deborah Colphon and Nicola Gardner, (taking on a second role). The men tease their female companions and at times, there is tinges of sexual frisson from both sides of their conversations.

On the other side of the stage, there is a smaller table which is the preserve of Bev (Janet Lilley) and Anisha (Alex Kapila), skiving off from their duties as Community Farm workers. Instead, in between cups of coffee, Bev regales Anisha with tales of her many disastrous dates and being eternally unlucky in love. Anisha also bemoans her single status and there is a particularly cringeworthy scene involving Anisha and Robbie.

The action switches between the 2 tables, interspersed with occasional appearances from the manager and the caretaker's Marley-inspired musings.

I would definitely describe this play as a gentle comedy with many touching moments of sadness, regret and endearment in amongst the light humour but audiences will warm to the characters who were all well presented.

The play is on until Saturday evening in Salford before moving to the Continental in central Preston on the 16th and 17th.

Reviewer - David swift
on - 8/8/19

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