Writers/Directors: Adam Zane and Mike Lee
Reviewer: Sam Lowe
#BeMoreMartyn appears everywhere around the theatre. What does it mean? We find out tonight in this verbatim theatre piece about the life of Martyn Hett. Tragically, Martyn was one of the 22 people killed in the Manchester Arena attack on May 22 2017. During his life, Martyn contributed to Attitude and Heat Magazine, and Huffington Post. He was prominent on social media and appeared on television too. This play is constructed from the exact words of eight people that were interviewed about Martyn and were very close to him, to create a theatrical biography of his life.
A highly skilled ensemble of actors embody the people that were interviewed. They strictly take into consideration the people’s mannerisms and the way in which they delivered their answers. A series of stories are told as a collective or sometimes individually, and there are moments where the performers recreate situations. The play regularly jumps timelines to various points in Martyn’s life, and this includes what people have to say after his death. This is particularly poignant to experience since this reviewer is watching this almost a year since the attack. The play’s scenes are broken up with music or television clips showing Martyn, this is effective because we get to see the real Martyn, as well as discern his identity from the perspective of others.
As the play progresses, you begin to realise how well this verbatim piece has been structured and collated together. The choice to make this documentary style of theatre is an impactful one, you get the opportunity to hear the immediate responses and reactions to questions relating to Martyn. His friends are speaking direct from the heart and it is beautiful. This play successfully creates a thorough and rounded representation of Martyn’s personality. You understand his positive traits and negative traits too, “He wasn’t all sweetness”. Whenever the actors talk about Martyn it always feels intimate, like they are having a casual conversation with you, which is ultimately engaging. The play challenges the media’s portrayal of Martyn too, which adds an extra layer to the piece. He was apparently labeled as an LGBT campaigner, however, his friends disagreed saying he wasn’t as politically engaged as that. They paint him out to be a role model, who always made time for people.
The design by Dick Longdin forms a celebratory atmosphere as we are transported to The Frigg, a gay bar where Martyn and his friends often visited. The multi-coloured LED lights on the bar, which create the iconic rainbow flag, make a stunning addition to the design. Unfortunately, there are a few technical issues when the television clips play. The ensemble wear white T-shirts, with celebrities printed on them, and black trousers or leggings; it is like we are at another one of Martyn’s many parties.
We approach the end, where the play deconstructs the definition of #BeMoreMartyn. For one it means, “Live your life exactly how you want to live it”. For another, “Say yes more”. Although the hashtag is #BeMoreMartyn, the play inspires you to #BeYourSelf. This is a lovely and heartfelt message. The play stays faithful to what Martyn would have wanted the play to be. Yes, there are the sad parts, but the focus is on lifting people’s spirits and making people feel happy. This is a sincerely crafted verbatim piece.
Runs until 26th May 2018 | Image: Contributed