Friday, 31 January 2020

THEATRE REVIEW: Life Up 'Ere 2 - Salford Arts Theatre, Salford.

A diverse variety of new, short plays made up tonight’s performances from Up ‘Ere Productions; from one woman pieces to elaborate and complex scripts; from wildly humorous to tragic and profound. But all seven shorts had one thing in common, the North. Interspersed by a wonderful compere, Matt Concannon, who brought the audience well-written and thought-provoking spoken word moments. Every pair of eyes in the audience were fixed on him throughout his poetic performances, as his rhythm when reciting was natural and melodic.

The first of seven short plays was brought to us by Farewell Theatre Company, entitled ‘The Panic Of The Coward’. All three performers here brought great energy and pace, providing a great opening for the show. Ross Thompson, John O’Neill and James Ward all represented different emotional reactions to a robbery gone wrong. Set at some time in the 1980s it is assumed due to the mentions of the mines and Thatcher, little else is revealed about location or setting. This worked well, focusing solely on the three performances. Little was done in the way of sound or lighting here, and this simplicity was the key to its success. However, I feel with such a strong and powerful ending, it may have helped to use technical aspects to heighten this part. Although, I am aware that there were a few technical issues, so this may have originally been the case.

The second play was a one woman show entitled ‘Fresh Eggs’, written and performed by Beth Hunter and directed by Michelle Parker. A wonderful contrast to the first play; this lough-out-loud piece was conversational and brutally honest. Hunter coped very well with the obvious sound issues she experienced on stage, never once faltering or allowing the humour to drop.

Following this was a two-hander in which both performers spoke directly to the audience and never to one another. ‘Silent Fountain’, written by Kieran Scott, showed us a homeless yet happy woman (played by Jo Dakin), and a wealthy yet anxious businessman (played by Michael Pope). Written in such a way that the full extent of the truth slowly becomes apparent to the audience, and played wonderfully by both actors. The contrast of the two performances worked really well. Michael Pope in particular must be commended for his ability to multi-role play so seamlessly and efficiently, never once breaking emotion or blurring his characters.

The fourth play, and the last of act one was entitled, ‘My Street, Your Road’, written and performed by Lauren Kirwin and directed by Sasha Corfield. Tackling homelessness head on, Corfield’s writing was humorous at times in spite of this, and also highly emotional. It is a shame that the cuts from scene to scene were so quick as I would have loved to see the emotion develop further.

Following an interval and another performance from Concannon, the audience were shown a piece called ‘The End Of The Story’ by Lisa Collins and featuring Collins herself, as well as Jordan Reece and Kaitlin Michaels. This was another highly emotional piece, in which the climax for me was when Michaels gives her heart-wrenching speech about how she was abducted. It is a shame that nearly all of this monologue was performed to the actor behind her. As an audience member I would have loved to see her eyes and facial expressions at this point. I feel that this play was one that would benefit from more research and development in order to turn it into a longer play to tackle such complex issues.

The sixth performance was another monologue, written and performed by Pegeen Murphy, entitled ‘Dreams Of Our Daughters’. This piece gave us a simple, but highly effective stage design to represent the top deck of a bus. This was another well performed and well written short piece of theatre. Murphy shocked from the outset when she entered the stage in a school uniform, brandishing a baby bump; a powerful image that set the tone of the piece well.

And the final short piece of theatre in tonight’s production was by far the most elaborate and also the longest. This complex script was the only completely non-naturalistic piece of the night, and was a welcome change. Set on a train heading to an unknown destination, in which everything and everyone seems to be centred around our everyman, ‘Eddie’, but the audience are not told why. The play’s author, Noé Sébert, takes commonly known phrases and words and plays with them, therefore playing also with the audience. A great ensemble performance in this piece from Akkaya, Mcinerney, Coyne, Reynolds, Long and Nolan. However, special mention must go to Megan Mcinerney for her hyper realistic portrayal of a young, inquisitive girl. This piece in particular had plenty of scope to be lengthened and elaborated; I would enjoy seeing a full length production of this piece.

A wonderful evening of new writing with variety enough to entertain all theatre-goers, really revealing the diversity of ‘life up ‘ere’. It is a shame that the final performance has sold out, but I am sure Up ‘Ere Productions will return soon with a part three following such high demand

Reviewer - Megan Relph
on - 30/1/20

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