Thursday, 2 April 2009

Gates of Gold - Library Theatre, Manchester

Gates of Gold by Frank McGuiness
Director: Rachel O’Riordan
Reviewer: John Roberts

Anyone who has watched somebody close to them die and sat hopelessly waiting for the moment to come knows that it can be full of anger, resentment, jealousy, happiness and sadness and it can be a bitter pill to know that there is nothing you can do to help ease their pain.

Frank McGuiness has created a love story for the stage in this tale of the dying days of Gabriel, a theatre impresario who is dying of emphysema and his long term business partner and lover Conrad, both are trying to come to terms with what the future means without each other especially as Conrad is of an age where he can’t look after Gabriel on his own, and hires in home help in the form of a respite nurse Alma.

What pursues is a battle of stubbornness between Conrad and Gabriel and how despite all their problems and the public facades that they create lies at the middle of it all two people who love each other unconditionally.

Frank McGuiness’ writing is acute and well observed, with its biting one liners for the old theatrical hams or the quick witted put downs for the young nurse Alma, but one couldn’t help feel that perhaps the plays biggest downfall is how wordy this production is and that doesn’t help the pace move quite as quickly as one would hope or need when watching such a powerful piece of drama unfold.

Director Rachel O’Riordan does well to overcome these flaws in the writing and has managed to produce an end product that is beautiful to watch, a production that is full of emotional pain and happiness that one can’t help but be swept along for the protagonists love for each other. O’Riordan is also helped by a fantastically detailed split level house set by Diego Pitarch.

Oliver Cotton as the dying Gabriel brings to the stage one of the finest and perfectly nuanced performances that I have ever seen a pure masterclass in theatre acting. Cotton’s ability to bring lightness to what otherwise could be seen as very dark material is fine tuned to ultimate perfection, whether that is his biting remarks or his softer more loving side coming through.

Ian Barrit as long term lover Conrad is also a delight to watch on stage, bringing a level of pathos to his character that is rarely seen in a production and one can’t help thinking that by the end of the play the death of Gabriel is also the death of Conrad.

Caitlin Mottram should also receive high praise for her performance of Alma, commanding the stage throughout, something which is no easy task considering the performances given by Cotton and Barrit.

Having seen firsthand the death of a family member, this production didn’t make for easy viewing and perhaps even at ninety minutes long was fifteen minutes too long. but even with these small downsides this is a production that you shouldn’t give up on, it packs a lot of emotional punch and the money for the ticket is worth it alone just to witness some of the best acting talent this county can offer.

Photos: Gerry Murry
Gates of Gold runs at the Library Theatre until Sat 11th April 09
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