A gorgeous late summer’s evening (if you ignore the driving rain, near gale force winds and distinct scent of autumn) saw me head back to the characterful space of Three Minute Theatre in central Manchester, to see Square Peg Theatre’s first Production, Forwards and Backwards, which had previously been part of both the Camden and Buxton Fringe programmes.
This is a two hander play, written, devised and directed by its cast, Michael White and Katie Robinson that combines dialogue, physical theatre and mime to chart the relationship of two people, from the day they first meet, through marriage and the ups and downs of their relationship. The story is told in non-linear from, which I’ve seen a few times recently, and can sometimes be quite distracting, but it isn’t here, as we switch forwards and backwards through time at a dizzying pace across the hour, sometimes for just a brief moment, and sometimes for a longer scene, building up a compelling picture of their developing relationship with all its highs and lows.
The physical theatre elements of the production are extremely impressive, precise and slick, cleverly conjuring up, with minimal props, the various settings. It is like watching a dance at times, as they move seamlessly from one scene to the next, and both performers have incredible timing and great fluidity of movement. The tale itself is at turns funny, emotional, and heart-wrenching, as we uncover the complexities of their individual and joint journeys.
As an actress Katie Robinson particularly impresses with an engaging and skilful performance. There is something almost effortless in the way she switches from one situation or character to another. Moments of high drama are well judged and emotionally affecting, and yet she manages to switch from that to a light hearted scene without missing a beat. She also has a beautiful singing voice. I definitely think she is a talent to watch.
The narrative is nicely written, balancing dramatic but realistic confrontations, with affection and humour, and unfolding at a rate that keeps the audience engaged throughout, although I do think that some elements of the overall story could be sharpened in further development.
Overall I thought this was a well written and stylishly executed piece, with excellent pacing that kept me engaged throughout. I hope to see more from them.