Friday, 1 May 2009

Northern Exposure - West Yorkshire Playhouse

It’s A Lovely Day Tomorrow by Dom Grace and Boff Whalley
Me, as a penguin by By Tom Wells
Reviewer: Sara Jackson

A double bill of new writing from the 7th annual Northern exposure season, which celebrates new writing in the North. It features plays from 3 new playwrights who took part in a recent writing master class at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

It’s A Lovely Day Tomorrow, is set in 1940 where we meet a family who’s father is at war and mother is ill, so their two young boys embark on a journey to Hull to find her an orange. Set against a background of war this should have been a poignant and touching story of a family’s love and the bond between two brothers.

Unfortunately the writing however was un
derdeveloped and barley skimmed the surface of the story. It jumps between each characters story to quickly and never really allows the audience to get to know or empathise fully with the characters. I also felt that it needed to draw some comparisons with war today, or tell me something I didn’t know about before. The set for the play was made up of a sofa and a chalkboard, the latter of which was used to show where on the journey the boys were. The sofa was moved, rather unceremoniously throughout the piece to represent the different scenes. The movement of the sofa was laboured and unnecessary which caused an already slow piece to drag even more.

The piece was saved by a wonderful
and understated performance from John Catterall as John, the older brother who finds himself as head of the household and struggles under the pressure of caring for a sick mother which raising his younger brother.

Me As A Penguin is the second play in the double bill, It's a touching piece about a gay man, Stitch, and his first experiences of the Hull gay scene.
This is clever and funny writing, that doesn’t try too hard and stay’s very close to its northern routes. Me, as a penguin uses the same cast and set as the first piece, only this time it was the chalkboard that was used unnecessarily and the sofa, to hilarious effect.

Overall this is a touching and all too real piece, which uses a comical set up of a stolen penguin which is being hidden in the bathroom to explore deep seated feelings of depression and loneliness. With another gentle and warm performance from John Catterall. Samantha Power, as Stitches pregnant sister and Robin Simpson with a wonderfully dry comic performance add power to a very relevant and topical script.

Unfortunately, Tom Hudson as Stitch gives an overplayed and over the top interpretation of a gay man struggling to find love and his place in society. However I believe that with a stronger actor in this role and a bit more development, this would be a very enjoyable contemporary comedy.

Photos: Richard Young. Northern Exposure runs at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until Sat 2 May
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