Thursday, 19 July 2018

Up The Bunting! - Bar Pop, Manchester.

Wildcat, in association with The Lipstick Thespians, welcome you to the local village fete. The downstairs bar has been transformed; the real bar automatically becomes a feature of the beer tent. On the stage we see: blue curtains, a massage bed, fairy lights, a homely-looking lamp, and of course, bunting.

Colin (Stephen Donald) is obsessed with the bric-a-brac. Although, this year he notices something is missing from the fete, the 'hook-a-duck' is gone. It has been replaced by an exclusive tent, where Lisa (Hayley Cartwright) practices reiki, reflexology, and meditation. Lisa and Colin, two contrasting personalities, are about to meet and change each other's lives for the better.

Donald's characterisation of Colin was detailed and nuanced. Colin got excited over the littlest and simplest of things. He had a Walace and Gromit smile, which not only communicated his warmth and joy, but his suppressed grief for his mother who passed away. There was wonderful acting from Cartwright as Lisa. Cartwright presented a well rounded character who was not just hyperactive, bold, and a bit barmy, but she was also vulnerable. The comedy in the play came from the contrast in their characters, and the fact Lisa behaved erratically in a calm setting.

The director, Alexis Tuttle, did a commendable job of bringing out the comedy in the play whilst never losing the drama and poignancy of the text. It lightly poked fun at meditation, mindfulness, reflexology, zen, and all the rest of it. However at the same time, the play showed how these holistic practices can create a cathartic experience for the likes of Colin, and help people to come to terms with losing someone.

For me, it felt like the play was notably divided into two scenes; with Colin's story being the main focus in the first scene and Lisa's story the primary focus in the second. This made the play feel slightly broken up and the stories not as tied together as they could be. The transitions could have been tighter and the mother's ashes accidentally spilt on the bed by Lisa, could have been swept away gently with consideration by the stagehand, given the context of the story.

This was a comic yet sad play about love, loss, reiki, the little things in life, and how two very different people have the power to heal each other. They were both survivors of their own story.

Reviewer - Sam Lowe
On - 17/07/2018

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