My Arms by James Leach – The Lowry Studio, Manchester
(Library Theatre Re:play Festival) Thurs 24th Jan 2013 Rating ***
The first play of the evening was a re-run of a production that achieved a level of acclaim at the Manchester 24:7 Theatre Festival last July. The two member cast had been slightly altered since the initial airing of My Arms with Susan Twist replacing ITV Coronation Street’s Roberta Kerr as the long suffering wife Helen. Josh Moran was making his return as Colin and his down at heel characterisation looked very much as though he had been ‘sleeping it off’ since the first production.
Using an interesting story in reverse scenario the account rolled out over several scenes and a simple set convincingly transformed into a number of environments. An unfolding picture was extremely well painted and simple to follow although personally I am not a fan of screen projected time lines and prefer period reference by narrative to drive the plot. This aside I did feel uncomfortable to see that little or no costume alterations were made over a period of several years despite being staged in an award winning venue.
My Arms certainly deserved its recall performance and will be very well suited to the studio touring circuit. The awkwardness of the relationship translated well and I enjoyed the reverse engineering that lead back to the captivating desperation at the start. There are a series of tour dates being embarked upon within the North of England so there will be a third chance to enjoy this widely appealing production.
All the Bens by Ian Townsend – The Lowry Studio, Manchester
(Library Theatre Re:play Festival) Thurs 24th Jan 2013 Rating *****
Ian Townsend’s All the Bens was the second offering of the evening and straight away arrived from a very different place. Lights up, no props or scenery, just three young guys doing their own thing and that was with a full 5 minutes remaining until the actual start. As with any production that is submitted for a second run there will be an element of expectation and the whispering audience added to my curiosity by noticeably repeating the word “seven”.
On dimming of the house lights Ben, Al and Henry sprang to life. Cleverly interweaving and swapping floor space while engaging in a series of powerfully delivered micro scenarios. Gradually a pattern emerged and the relationships awkwardly collided between brothers, played by Dominic Vulliamy and Daniel McCann with the nervously uncertain outsider also excellently portrayed by Thomas McGarva. Somehow eventually the scales began to balance and by the climactic ending I found myself getting accustomed to the extent of wondering if maybe all theatre should be this way?
All the Bens does make sense, it just takes time and a very enjoyable education process. Townsend’s play was highly decorated after the 24:7 Festival and justifiably so. The test, the real test for me was the rewind that went on in my head for many hours afterwards. And yes, I also found myself repeating the word “seven”.
© Sue Callaghan Murray 2013
Last edited on Mon Jan 28th, 2013 09:56 pm by Sue Callaghan Murray