DramaNorth WestReview

On Me – The Seven Oaks, Manchester 

Reviewer: Jo Beggs

Writer: Caroline Lamb

Director: Helen Parry 

We’ve all sat through plenty of full length plays that claim to have hard-hitting themes yet come away with very little to think about. So Caroline Lamb has set herself a mighty task to tackle violence against women and girls in 60 minutes, performed in a featureless room above a city centre pub.

Shona (Leah Eddleston) and Christian (Alexi Papadopoulos) play two actors making a true-life crime docu-drama based on the transcript of a young woman abused by her seemingly gentle and loving partner. Working and socialising together, Shona and Christian develop an undeniable mutual attraction, each waiting for the other to make the first move, but as they explore the motivations for their roles, and perform some of the more troubling scenes, a whole lot of psychological barriers appear.

A play that describes itself as having something to say about the post-#metoo era brings home the fact that we’re post-nothing. Women and girls are still subject to the same levels of abuse from those men whose motivations were always questionable, they still feel the need to ‘text me when you’re home’ or clutch their keys in their hand walking home in the dark. While many men are left not knowing how to show good intentions, fearful of their own potential dark – or even just spontaneous – side.

Lamb’s script delivers naturalistic, easy dialogue. Short scenes and a lot of coming and going between them mean that the pace of it is often lost. The venue doesn’t make this easy with a door to ‘offstage’ to negotiate, but in the longer scenes Eddleston and Papadopoulos accelerate the pace, Eddleston in particular proving herself an extremely competent naturalistic actor. Lamb has also created a bit of a challenge for Director Helen Parry with scenes involving one-sided telephone calls and one in which Shona sits watching content on a laptop – both things that are hard to make visually interesting.

Th play has a satisfyingly open ending, mirroring what we don’t know about the outcome of the true-life story they’re recreating. Every audience member will go away with a different story of ‘what happens next’, probably strongly influenced by their own life experiences. It’s a credit to Lamb’s storytelling skills that this play requires such a strongly worded trigger warning on the way in.

Runs until 30 August 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

tough storytelling

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The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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