Sunday, 22 July 2018

China Plates and Pearl Earrings, 20/7/18 Hatworks Stockport

The weather conspired to keep me away from Viaduct Theatre’s first production in Stockport earlier this year, so its great news that they are building on that successful debut with a second outing at the Hatworks museum in Stockport with this production as part of the Greater Manchester Fringe.

This new play by Jade Jones, which made its debut at 3MT in Manchester (which is a unique venue you should definitely check out if you have the chance) centres on the meeting of three siblings as they come together to sort out their recently deceased parents home ready for sale. Being brought together in such an emotionally charged environment forces them to confront those family tensions that build up over time as unspoken resentments build and siblings lose the habit of talking, listening and understanding. Through the course of the play they begin to rediscover their family bonds and reconnect whilst remembering the past.

Brian (Paul Fraser-Smith) was encouraged by their parents to choose security over creativity, perhaps influenced by their precarious start in married life. His materialistic and attention seeking wife Ivy (Helen O’Hara) has little time for compassion and a keen eye on the potential profits for her of their loss. Julia ( Claire Haymes) a teacher, is heartbroken by grief but constantly trying to act as the peacemaker between Brian and their youngest sister Nicola ( Lorna Newman) a challenging character who seems in self destruct mode having walked away from a fabulous writing opportunity, but we come to see her story has been more complex.

The play has an interesting structure, we see flashbacks of the children’s parents Mark and Linda (nicely played by Ali Wilson-Goldsmith and Emma Young) starting out on married life, exploring their new relationship and it’s tensions and tenderness. It’s almost like they are haunting the family home as their children prepare to close the book on that chapter of their lives. There are some really touching moments in the writing, I found myself welling up at more than one point, especially during Julia’s opening monologue. I perhaps would have liked to have seen less of the peripheral characters to give the writing more chance to explore Brian’s character and what led him to take certain actions as he feels the least sympathetic of the three.

The space at Hatworks is incredibly intimate, and told in the round it feels like the audience is eavesdropping on events. With such a low ceiling I feel the lighting may have been a bit of a challenge, especially during the ‘flashback’ scenes where I was a little dazzled, distracting somewhat from the on stage action. The use of music is nice and really adds to the feel of the piece, and the transitions between scenes are done well.

All in all I really enjoyed this tender and touching piece of new writing, and heartily applaud Viaduct Theatre for their efforts in establishing a fringe theatre presence in Stockport. I wish them every success in their aims and look forward to enjoying more from them in the future.

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