Writer: Alan Harris
Director: George Perrin
Reviewer: Jay Nuttall
Fresh from a sell-out month at Summerhall at the Edinburgh Festival, Paines Plough Theatre Company’s wonderful portable, pop-up Roundabout theatre arrives on the outskirts of Manchester as part of the Love Eccles Festival. Situated next to the Parish Church in the town centre there are three days of shows beginning with the oddly titled Love, Lies and Taxidermy.
Described as an “offbeat drama about trying to fit in” this quirky three-hander focusses on several intertwined relationships in Methyr Tydfil. Probably best positioned in the bracket of romcom, seventeen-year-old Valentine meets Ash at a medical research facility as she tries to raise money for her father’s failing ice cream business. Valentine’s Father, Polish builder and taxidermy enthusiast, Jacob, tries to cling to his wife, and mother to Valentine, who, incidentally, is seeing the man from Tescos. This is an upbeat comedy drama from Alan Harris who weaves a tight web between its main characters that requires maximum attention.
Matching last year’s offerings, Paines Plough’s productions in the round are sparse. With a tight playing space, there are no props or set. Instead,the creatives rely on lighting, sound and, of course, the text from the playwright. Written with this space in mind Harris has produced an extremely dense, almost filmic script as we flit between teenage and adult characters, locations and time zones. What is impressive is the way the three actors, Remy Beasley, Andy Rush and Richard Corgan play off each other and, in Corgan’s case, switch instantaneously between characters. George Perrin’s direction keeps Harris’ fast script at almost breakneck speed. Actors deliver information, either in role or as narrator, like runaway trains – jumping on their queues, not allowing the ball to drop for a split second.
And as the story builds to a climax (pardoning the pun) as Valentine desperately tries to save Ash from making a terrible mistake by starring in ‘soapy porn’ in a hotel room hired by the hour, the frenetic pace of the play somehow increases until Harris finally releases us at the end of the play.
Impressively technical from an actor’s point of view the seventy-minute play zooms along like a bullet train. With hardly time to catch your breath, a lapse in concentration might mean playing ‘catch-up’ for the next few minutes as you try to unravel a missed vital piece of information. So fast out of the blocks, it is easy to crave a hiatus from time to time: a character speaking directly to us for more than a couple of lines or perhaps a fully played out scene without the narrative interruptions. Some theatre suffers from a lack of pace. In this instance, the speed of the scenes, although tremendous for the most, seem like a sprint to the finish line.
So fast out of the blocks, it is easy to crave a hiatus from time to time: a character speaking directly to us for more than a couple of lines or perhaps a fully played out scene without the narrative interruptions. Some theatre suffers from a lack of pace. In this instance, the speed of the scenes, although tremendous for the most, seem like a sprint to the finish line.
This is a production with a lot of fun and wit and is, eventually, unashamedly romantic. Just try and keep up!
Runs until September 11 2016 | Image: Contributed