FeaturedMusicalNorth WestReview

Bloody Elle – The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

Reviewer: Jay Nuttall

Writer & Performer: Lauryn Redding

Director: Bryony Shanahan

Lauryn Redding begins her one-woman show at The Royal Exchange with a song explaining that there will not be a prologue. Of course, the song itself is ironically designed to introduce us to the sort of show she is about to perform. The prologue for the world of theatre is all too real. The Royal Exchange is welcoming its first audiences inside the building in over fifteen months and bloody ‘ell it is a wonderful fresh beginning.

Writer, performer and musician Lauryn Redding is riding the largest high of her career. Her debut one woman, two-hour‘ gig musical’ would normally not have been programmed for the large main house in one of the North West’s leading theatres. However, with theatres beginning to trickle back into life there is enormous complexities in what they can plan with highly uncertain futures. The pandemic has shifted focus in many ways for many institutions, shining spotlights where spotlights might not have previously been shone. Redding is stepping into a very bright light with Bloody Elle.

Danielle (aka Elle), young and a little bit mouthy, is working a dead-end job at ‘Chips and Dips’. Happy enough but not really happy, her life consists of stirring the dips to keep them fresh and the occasional work night out with the colleagues she is forced to spend time with. That is until a new girl arrives. Filling in time before starting a degree in medicine at Oxford University, Eve is out of place at ‘Chips and Dips’. What follows is the most joyous and romantic love story: of growing up; heartbreak; self-discovery and coming out.

What makes this show special is its incredibly special performer. Redding, seemingly without effort, guides us through Elle’s awakening and journey of first love with incredible confidence and control. She slips in and out of characters as easily and as quickly as she slips in and out of song. Her ‘gig musical’ is a storytelling show with songs, spoken word, and an awful lot of heart. It is difficult not to watch the show without being hugely impressed at what Redding has achieved and when she creates her own backing using loop pedals her talents are underscored, literally, even more so. Her songs are as beautiful as the voice that sings them, often quirky with lyrical wit and often direct from the heart. As Elle, Redding’s story is presumably (semi) autobiographical and the characters she inhabits almost fill the empty space – her imagination fizzing imaginary into life.

Co-artistic director of The Royal Exchange, Bryony Shanahan, directs with a lightness of touch. Redding is allowed to slide between song, narrative storytelling and direct address. The result feels like one long love song incorporating all its elements of giddiness and heartbreak. Amanda Stoodley’s stage design is stripped back with some tables and stools allowing a handful of audience members an up-close feel and the ambiance of an intimate pub gig – something perhaps as alien over the last year as sitting in a theatre.

Bloody Elle will rightly win the attention it deserves. It is a smart, sleek and incredibly well-performed show. For a piece created in lockdown it, rather joyously, is nothing to do with the restrictions and limitations we have all endured – rather a celebration of life, love and learning. First and foremost, it is an excellent night at the theatre in the company a stunning talent.

Runs until 17th July 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

Smart and sleek.

The Reviews Hub

The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.

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