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Away From Home – 24:7 Theatre Festival, Manchester

Writer: Rob Ward &Martin Jameson

Director: Martin Jameson

Reviewer: Stephen M Hornby

[Rating: 4.5]

away-from-homeAway From Home is a brilliant choice as the 24 7 Theatre Festival opener. It’s an original piece full of energy, wit, passion, the odd salacious moment and flashes of intense love. The play travels from the male only rituals of Saturday afternoon football in the pub, to the nervous moments of a rent boy stood outside the hotel door of a VIP punter, via Sunday afternoon roast with Mum and Dad. Every character and situation is performed by just one man. Rob Ward gives an incredible performance.

At the heart of the play is a gay footballer in a celebrity system that monetarises privacy as a commodity to be sponsored and his connection with Kyle, a young man who measures human sexual expression in 20 pound notes. The footballer is never named and neither are the teams beyond rough geographies. This is well judged in that it enables the audience to read the situation as any footballer in any team. The play manages to be both a complex love story and, in the overlay of football rivalries between the lovers, a comedy mixing these elements in inventive and hilarious combinations. Martin Jameson and Rob Ward have taken what could be the stuff of a tawdry tabloid expose and made it into a tender and funny fable on the price of love and the cost of celebrity.

Ward starts the show dashing on half naked with a towel around him, dressing in front of us and showing off his body to dual effect: firstly to demonstrate its athleticism, but also more importantly to show us bruises and scars creating curiosity in the audience as to their genesis. The play delivers on a satisfying story that essays the intensity of consuming love yet is boundaries by the realities of of homophobia in football. Ward manages to switch character mid-sentence effortlessly, throwing himself out of a nightclub and re-enacting a car crash in perfect slow-motion. He plays Kyle, and Kyle’s mum and dad in an argument over lunch that is so skilfully acted that one can literally see every person at the table. Similarly with a group of mates in a pub and in his encounters with punters. Ward is remarkable, moving between characterisations, situations and emotions with great deftness. It is also a testimony to Jameson’s excellent direction that so much is conjured in a small, simple set with just one actor.

Away From Home sets a high bar for this year’s 24 7 Theatre Festival: a sensational performance in a moving, funny, fast paced play.

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One comment

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    great fun