Thursday, 19 November 2009

The Pub - The Royal Exchange Studio, Manchester

Producer: Richard Morgan
Reviewer: John Roberts

Something interesting and unique is taking place in the Studio at the Royal Exchange Theatre, an original and entertaining way of showcasing some of the best new writing and talent that the local areas has to offer. Studio producer Richard Morgan has delivered the concept of turning the studio space into a fully working and authentic Pub with its own bar and yes they are serving drinks. Through the evening various pieces of new writing is performed around the space. Every week is a new programme and promises something for everyone throughout its run.

I reviewed this production on the 18th November, which had three pieces being performed, interlinked by some lines of dialogue from our resident Landlord played by TV regular James Quinn, although I felt more could have been made of the role on the evening. A bit more mingling with his customers and sharing a landlord anecdote or two, instead of sitting on a stool by the bar texting all night might have lifted the evening a bit more.

You Do It All Again by Ben Fowler and Yann Seabra

This is a fast paced and witty look at the effects of alcohol during a first date, Tom and Anna, (played by Tom Hall and Anna McSweeny) have only just met – although they have swapped photos and exchanged numerous messages through the internet, what is slowly revealed through this piece is how each of them use alcohol to release built in tension and to really find themselves.

There are some interesting ideas used in the piece, especially the use of contemporary dance as an inner monologue for the physical effects the alcohol has on each of the characters, but one couldn’t help be distracted by several moments where bizarre changes in the direction take place, but this can be overlooked as the performances although slightly overplayed for such an intimate space were on the whole excellent.

If I Could Show You by Act One

This was perhaps for me the highlight of the evening, running at just 15 minutes this group of 16-21 year olds working with the Education Department of the Royal Exchange created a poignant and personal insight of a group of friends meeting at the Local for a goodbye party as they all head off into the big bad world of work and university.

Using the whole space throughout helped make the audience really feel part of the action, There was not one weak member of the cast, each shining in various ways throughout, but Jenny Campbell’s larger than life character and booming voice stood out proud. Harry Egan as his rolex watch wearing suit provided many moments of laughter and performed with real comic panache, and Josh Goulding also provided a more subtle and calmer performance with his Greek Mythology loving student, there are some definite stars of the future in amongst this group.

All Right by Copland Smith and Directed by Rebecca Courtney

Unfortunately this is the damp squib in what otherwise was an excellent evening – the script is littered with highly witty observations of two males meeting in the pub, being observed by a Psychologist, where the performance falls flat is the delivery of the material, it seemed being right next to them, that 95% of the laughter of this piece came from the directors friends and not those sat bemused around the space.

Courtney makes some strange directorial decisions having the Psychologist portrayed as a pointed and more hard edged David Attenbourgh only serves to put the audience on edge and grate throughout, but the saving grace comes from the physical performances of the two males played by Guy Hepworth and Michael Peace.
In Summery The Pub is a conceptual success and provides a unique atmosphere to enjoy material which we perhaps wouldn’t normally see, but the success lies in the material that is put on and this unfortunately ranges quite considerably.

The Pub runs Weds-Sat 7pm-10:30pm until the 5th Dec for more on what is being performed click here
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