Thursday, 18 July 2013

Bump by Laura-Kate Barrow, Jollyboat and Pornovision by John Maguire – The Shiny New Festival at the Lantern Theatre Liverpool – 17th July 2013

“If you listen carefully you can hear the rafters breathe...”

Following hard on the heels of Trolley Shaped Bruise (Unity Theatre, May 2013) Laura-Kate Barrow’s “Bump” opens this Friday at Manchester’s 24:7 festival. I got to see it in the second of three preview performances playing at Liverpool’s Lantern Theatre as part of the current Shiny New Festival, whose director Peter Mitchelson has brought it from the page to the stage.

Like its companion piece, the play centres on a chance meeting between two seemingly different characters whose histories unfold and who ultimately find common ground, but the author has treated this premise very differently here.

Opening with Louise, sitting still and quiet in an empty church, we begin to wonder what has brought her here and what contemplations are in her mind. The arrival of Matt, who turns out to have known Louise at school, gives us the opportunity to find out – eventually.

Sarah Keating brings a quiet dignity to the role of Louise, who is at first reluctant to speak at all and slow to trust the questions. Matt is on edge, wired, all fingernail chewing and pacing about. Played by Thomas Casson, almost too tall for the tiny performance space, Matt fills the silence of the church with his constant need to say something, but there are still some wonderful pauses – laden with unspoken dialogue.
When direct questioning doesn’t draw Louise out then a word game begins, and the barriers are replaced with a slow-growing trust. A pivotal point is a scene in the church confessional. After this, stories of the past that the two remember from school lead to revelations about what has happened to them in the few years since and the scars that they privately bear. We finally discover the personal crises that have brought them to the place. The resolution, whilst happening a little suddenly, is satisfyingly out of the blue but believable. Two fine performances from Keating and Casson keep us hanging on their every word.
Laura-Kate Barrow has an obvious skill for creating very rounded characters and natural dialogue, and the script offers plenty of opportunity for the performers to play with time and pacing to hold the audience. Hers is an emerging voice to watch out for in theatre.
Bump runs at the Three Minute Theatre, Afflecks Arcade, Oldham St Manchester from 19th to 26th July 2013, and Trolley Shaped Bruise has a script reading at The Lass O’Gowrie at 9:00pm on 23rd July as part of the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival.

Sarah Keating and Thomas Casson
Bump was the first of three events I attended yesterday at The Lantern. The Shiny New Festival, which was about half-way through its ten days, presenting three or four items every evening, with special rate multipass tickets on sale each day. Twenty minutes later, Liverpool writer/actor John Maguire presented his new play “Pornovision” which enjoys 4 performances this week.
It is unfortunate that none of the online or printed publicity material identifies Maguire’s two co-stars, as they give the best performances in this somewhat schizophrenic work. The title and likely the play itself are probably intended to be provocative, but it didn’t entirely hit its target – maybe because it didn’t have one.
Beginning with a doctor telling us we were to see a study of what was going on in the mind of our protagonist, Bartholemew Younghusband (Maguire), what followed was a series of disparate scenes played out between him and his uncredited lodger. Peering through a pair of rather problematic wire rimmed spectacles, we gather that Younghusband has an addiction to pornography. Judging by the laughter, there were still some members of the audience who have not previously heard the joke about gay burglars leaving quiche in the oven. For me this was just one example too many of the gloomy attempts the script makes to define the character as a grimly grimy bigoted heterosexual.
The young lady who performed the doctor also appeared in other guises, variously resembling an armour plated Madonna and what looked like a feline pole-dancer, drinking milk from a cat’s bowl. The best humorous passages came from the lodger with genuine stage presence and engineering some great recoveries for Maguire, whose own script tripped him up a few times in this first performance. His ad-lib about the ill fitting glasses raised quite a titter, as did his unexplained but witty near full-frontal nude appearance as a postman. He also managed to improvise his way around some glitches with the props.
If there’s an hour of your life you don’t need to keep hold of, Pornovision runs to 20th July.
Happily, my evening ended with an hour of musical lunacy from Jollyboat –brothers, Ed and Tommy in a Two-Men-and-a-Guitar revue and describing themselves as Comedy Rockstars.

No strangers to the Lantern’s performance space, Jollyboat have added new material to their act and we were getting a taster of it as it heads toward the Edinburgh Festival. Their very individual re-workings of a variety of familiar songs tread a splendidly balanced tightrope between satire and sheer madness and they never fall off. It is pointless to try and describe any of the material, but safe to say that it would be someone with a very rickety sense of humour who could fail to get a jolly good laugh from this hugely engaging and very funny double-act.
You can climb aboard Jollyboat one more time in Liverpool on Saturday 20th July at 9:00pm before they set sail for Edinburgh, where they will be playing at the Base Nightclub, 69 Cowgate from 3rd to 24th August.

There is a real buzz in the sultry summer air at the Lantern Theatre, where the Shiny New Festival continues to Sunday 21st July. Support this event and let’s hope it returns next year.
The Lantern Theatre on Blundell Street in the Baltic Triangle might be off the beaten track, but it is well worth keeping on the radar, as it provides a vibrant, intimate and affordable space for small-scale performance and has a great atmosphere.

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