Friday, 12 April 2019

REVIEW: Jock Night - Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester.

Jock Night is a ‘theatrical soap opera’ written and directed by Adam Zane, creator and in-house director of Hope Theatre Company. Originally created for ‘OutstageUs’, a showcase for new LGBT+ writing at The Lowry, ‘Jock Night’ follows the story of five men as they navigate the Manchester gay club and chemsex scene. It explores and educates the audience on PrEP, HIV stigma, mental health issues and drug addiction with a refreshingly straightforward approach. The play is very enjoyable; funny, touching and informative without ever feeling preachy. There is a liberal handful of in-jokes throughout but plenty of broad appeal humour and references for the unintiated. This mix could be more even as there were entire conversations where an audience member unfamiliar with Manchester’s gay scene would be utterly lost. This is, however, a minor issue as the story is engaging enough to quickly sweep you back up. 

Sam Goodchild as ‘Kam’ was the stand-out performance with a character that was easily the most complex and challenging. Sam Blackhurst’s ‘Russ’ was an excellent comedy foil for Goodchild’s mercurial performance and the pair stole every scene. Adam Waddington's and Levi Payne’s performances felt a little stilted at first but that disappeared as the play progressed, and I would not be surprised if it was absent entirely as the run progresses. Daniel Waterhouse did a fine job with ‘Simon’ but was unfortunately stuck with perhaps the least interesting and undeveloped character in the piece. 

The staging is simple, efficient and well-rehearsed with a single location and much of the activity taking place off-stage. The play took place over four Jock Nights which proved to be an effective choice as we fast-forward through the men’s lives and relationships. Though, on occasion, it is difficult to differentiate between a new night and a continuation as there is no clear indicator in sound design, lighting or anything at all. 

The play runs until April 13th and I do recommend it as an hour of good laughs and solid performances, plus you might even learn something. I also recommend picking up a programme; it is very well produced, offers additional context for some of the issues raised in the play and gives acknowledgment to a few advocacy groups. A word of ‘warning’, the play is enthusiastically true to its title so choose your theatre buddy wisely.

Reviewer - Deanna Turnbull
on - 9/4/19

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