Saturday 3 August 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: Letter To Boddah - The Talleyrand Theatre, Manchester.

'Letter To Boddah' starring Jordan Reece and Sam Glen had the audience on the edge of their seats, explosively good. A pleasure to see two talented Northern actors given such a rich script refreshingly set in the North.

I was invited to catch 'Letter to Boddah' for a small showing at The Talleyrand, Levenshulme, before it heads up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. A brilliant theatre pub with the feel of an Edinburgh pop up venue, lovely staff with a very homely vibe to the place.

Sarah Nelson (winner of the 'Inspire Award' for Women In Media 2019) writer of this production wrote the piece to be set in Oldham and to be challenging, hoping to start difficult conversations.

The play's action unfurls in a Tesco's disabled toilet, where two young men; Neil (played by Jordan Reece), and Billy (played by Sam Glen), have decided to kill as many people as they can in the store, revealing their large bomb and guns, they gear themselves up to storm their victims.

Both had suffered at the hands of their fathers, one being abused and the other left with a sense of blame for his father's suicide. There was also the pressure from society to surpass their parents, but with their being no actual opportunities for them this feat appears impossible to them. Though this material obviously had an emotional effect on the actors and gave them a wealth to work from, I personally found it hard to believe it was enough of a stimulus to commit such a horrifically violent act.

The tone is set from the beginning as Glen's character reveals the enormous bomb he is carrying in his rucksack. There is then a countdown to their planned attack and the tension builds to an unbearable crescendo, the tension breaks and the lads begin to share their most painful childhood memories with one another.

When I first heard about the plays content I had braced myself for humour in bad taste, but this was definitely not the case. The comedy comes from Neil and Billy's immature boyish logic, played so well by Reece and Glenn that it comes across as completely charming and disarming. The humour is in sharp contrast with the heinous act they are about to commit which makes it all the more shocking, its very effective.

The text is perfect for both Reece and Glen to flex their acting muscles, and both characters go through an array of emotions and a personal journey that has a profound effect that changes them dramatically. Both Glen and Reece as well as being talented at portraying authentic emotions are very physically expressive and ultimately believable in their characterisations.

The highlight of the performance was the tension created during the build-up to taking the bomb out into the store, it was palpable. Both actors carried themselves very well, Reece especially stood out during the grappling with one another and during his transformation in the end sequence into the more confident and determined of the two, the transformation from the dim witted side-kick to a sudden possession by his determination to prove himself in this violent act, was completely chilling.

'Letter To Boddah' is heading to Edinburgh: C-Cubed (venue 50) Edinburgh Fringe 1-26 August, 1.15pm, I'm tempted to go along and see this again towards the end of its run and see how well this production will have grown. I'm sure it will have every success.

One of my top fringe recommendations for this year.

Reviewer - Kerry Ely
on - 28/7/19

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