Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Dancing to the Sound of Crunching Snails - Balancing Act, 24/7 Festival Manchester

Dancing to the Sound of Crunching Snails
Writer: Joe Graham
Director: Joyce Branagh
Reviewer: John Roberts

Joe Graham’s bittersweet comedy set during a tense family meeting on boxing day, inviting the father that you haven’t had a relationship with in some years to a gathering can bring up all sorts of insecurities, especially when those insecurities and feelings are based on memories.

Memories are obscure things especially when looked at closely, that we accept memories how we want to see them and not how they happened, how we can quickly forget the good times and hang on to the bad.

Catherine Kinsella (Katie ) gives a wonderful performance as the youngest daughter, who hasn’t seen her dad in many years, holding onto the fact that she has nothing in common with the dad that ran out on her when she was younger. Kinsella’s depth of emotion throughout the piece is exquisite, comical and yet heartbreaking.

Andrew Grose as Katie’s Husband Sam gives a powerful and highly comic performance of a man living his childhood memories through Monopoly, Buckeroo and Hungry Hippo’s. Gemma Wardle also gives a warming performance as older sister Sara, but it is TV regular Michael Stark that steals the show as Howard the estranged father who shows Katie they have a lot more in common than she first thought. Stark’s every word is punctuated with a heavy load of emotion, and in one scene even had this reviewer bring tears to his eyes, yet also laughing so much your ribs hurt, this is a real tour-de-force performance.

The performances are only as strong as the writing and directing and I am pleased to say that these are also of a high standard, Graham’s script is pacey and the dialogue flows with a real sense of understanding, helped along by Branagh’s slick and moving direction and a brilliant decision to turn the space into a thrust meant that all the audience felt very much part of the living room set designed by Richard Foxton.

Dancing to the Sound of Crunching Snails shows what real fringe theatre can be about, engaging performances, beautifully written script and clever direction that never feels it needs to do anything but tell a story, if there is one show at this year’s festival that should be in your must see list then this has a fighting chance to be in your number one slot!
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