Writer: Eve Steele
Director: Ed Jones
Reviewer: Jo Beggs
Jamie is trouble. Before he turns ten he’s a liar and a thief. He roams around the Hulme Crescents like he owns the place. And that’s just the start of a wretched life. In and out of prison for theft and violence, drinking himself into oblivion, doing all the drugs he can lay his hands on. Finally settling down with the love of his life and two kids don’t even set him back on the right path.
Actor and Writer Eve Steele portrays this short, sad life from the instant of Jamie’s conception to the moment of his untimely death. She’s a compelling performer, delivering her own pacey script with a raw and primal force. From the wide-eyed toddler who leaves his Irish accent at home in order to fit in to urban Manchester, to the drunken abuser terrifying his wife and kids with outbursts of violence, she conjures a wholly believable, and surprisingly sympathetic man and boy. If the storyline is a little obvious, it’s this depth of character that draws in the audience and leaves a powerful impression.
But it’s not all misery. Sprinting to victory as the fastest runner in his school, dancing with mates to favourite tunes, the rush of drug-induced ups, holding his first child in his arms, and even finding some strange and comforting life parallels in an old copy of The Complete Oscar Wilde offered by a concerned youth detention centre officer. Steele’s pace dips and falls as Jamie savours these rare moments of joy, not least the final, blissful release that is his death. It is Steele’s physical performance that makes these scenes so powerful. She moves seamlessly from delivering a hard-edged, youthful masculinity to a broken and then enlightened middle-aged man, from the shifty thief to the blissed-out raver. None of her gender-switched performance relies on obvious masculine physical stereotyping. Instead it is a subtle and beautifully observed portrayal of maleness.
Steele uses, and commands, the whole stage in the Lowry’s studio, simply but beautifully lit by Aly Howe. She creates a physical world out of nothing and makes full use of the intimacy of the space. She locks eyes with the audience, laying bare both the happy and the terrible moments of Jamie’s life.
The piece could lose five or ten minutes. There’s some unnecessary repetition, and the occasional uses of recorded music, although setting the piece very successfully in time and place, are a little overlong, distracting attention away from Steele. Overall, though, this is a beautifully crafted and absorbing drama.
Runs until 12 May 2017 | Image: Contributed