Friday, 21 June 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: Be More Martyn - The Lowry Theatre, Salford.

In May 2017 Martyn Hett was excitedly in the midst of multiple messy nights out to say goodbye to all his friends as he was about to embark upon a much anticipated trip to travel across America. His finale before heading Stateside was a boozy lunch with his friend Stuart followed by the fateful Arianna Grande concert at Manchester Arena on 22nd May where 22 young people lost their lives in an atrocious terror attack. Martyn was one of the 22.

Larger-than-life Martyn was as 29 year-old PR specialist who was well-known amongst Manchester’s LBGTQ community. He had written for Attitude, Heat Magazine and Huffington Post, and appeared on 'Come Dine With Me' and 'Tattoo Fixers'. Known for his legendary Eurovision parties, love of Mariah Carey and lifelong Coronation Street addiction, Hett was described by Stuart as a Cilla Black for friends as he brought so many people together. As a prolific social media contributor, Martyn’s infectious personality spread far and wide resulting in many people knowing Martyn even though they had never actually met him. In the hours after his death was announced #BeMoreMartyn began trending on Twitter as his friends lamented the passing of such an inspiring and joyous human being, and vowed to live and love more fully, just like Martyn had.

Unsurprisingly, his funeral wasn’t a sad event, but a big open affair “hosted” by Michelle McManus with cast members from his beloved Corrie in attendance. After hearing the stories that were told from the stage (yes, of course there was a stage at his funeral!) Adam Zane and Mike Lee from Manchester-based Hope Theatre Company wanted to learn more about what it was like to know the outrageous and magnetic Martyn and how this remarkable young man made such an impact on everyone he came into contact with.

With permission from Martyn’s family, Zane & Lee interviewed eight of Martyn’s close friends just 3 months after he tragically lost his life. As the friends reminisced, wonderful, touching, and hilarious stories unfolded about friendship, love and a life well lived which Zane and Lee knew needed to be shared with a much wider audience.

Created to commemorate the first anniversary of the attack, #BeMoreMartyn is a verbatim theatre piece, a form of documentary theatre, which is cleverly constructed from the precise words spoken by Martyn’s friends during their 2017 interviews. Initially the play ran as a fundraising event at Hope Mill Theatre in 2018, then due to popular demand toured for five weeks, opening in London on the week of the 2nd anniversary of the bombing. The tour culminates with 3 nights at The Lowry in Salford, on 20th-22nd June - you should go. It’s fitting for the homecoming of this hilarious and heartbreaking production to be staged in the Quays Theatre, from the bar you can look across the water to see the iconic Coronation Street sign emblazoned on the outer walls of the set; a set which also contains a memorial bench for Martyn and the others who so needlessly lost their lives just over 2 years ago.

Like Martyn himself, the show is a celebration of life. His cast of friends take you on a comedic journey via the cobbles of Canal Street, the classiest joints of Blackpool, Eurovision parties at The Frigg, and Sainsbury’s, to give you a personal insight into the life of the boy with the infamous Deidre Barlow tattoo. And this style of theatre really is personal. Listening to the intimate accounts of their relationships made you feel that you were a part of those stories, that you knew Martyn too. Although some of the more poignant moments were a little overacted at times, Sonia Ibrahim’s retelling of Rachel’s last moments was incredibly emotional. She was visibly moved and took the audience with her as she recounted the conversation with Martyn that would be their last.

The play concluded with a performance of 'Rise Like A Phoenix' by Martyn’s good friend Rob King, who recently made it to the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent. It was a touching way to close the uplifting show that one of Martyn’s friends described as “like having 2hrs back with him”.

How bittersweet that even without physically being there, Martyn’s spirit and talent for friendship is still bringing people together in an atmosphere of love and laughter.

Reviewer - Becs McNeill
on - 20/6/19

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