Writer: Daf James
Director: Stef O’Driscoll
Reviewer: Sam Lowe
Bringing a slice of the Edinburgh Fringe universe to Albert Park in Salford is… Roundabout. A transportable, practicable, and valuable theatre in the round space, which looks like a spaceship. This is bringing theatre out into the Salford Community. It rightfully boasts four premieres of plays, free events, comedy, and music. Tickets are affordable at five pounds or less.
Tonight’s new writing is On the Other Hand We’re Happy. It’s about adoption but the play text is layered with lots of other topical issues, even touching briefly on single use plastic bags which end up in the streets or on rubbish heaps. Perhaps that is a metaphor for how children in care feel abandoned? As a result of tragic circumstances, a single dad meets his adopted daughter for the very first time. This is a life changing decision. He goes a step further and decides to meet her birth mum. Two worlds collide in the name of love, hope, and tenderness. It’s about becoming a dad and a mum to someone.
A trio of fine actors (Charlotte O’Leary, Charlotte Bate, and Tayin Omari-Kinch) bring spirited empathy and dynamism to their performances. There is attention to detail in physical characterisation as all of the actors play multiple roles. However, their costumes never change (not even slightly) which makes some moments temporarily confusing. The physical theatre elements are performed with commitment and a subtle sense of urgency. At one point, there is a beautiful marriage of acting, writing, and choreography in the eloquent, wholehearted, and gutsy monologue about grief.
Scenes effectively vary in length and pace, linking fluidly through specific choices of words which end one and begin the next scene. The theatrical montages are a real highlight, demonstrating James’ skill to balance the quantity and quality of his writing. Using the device of “Breaking the Fourth Wall” establishes the idea that everyone and everything is connected; we should be affected by and involved with what’s happening on stage. Expectedly, some minor audience participation comes with this. This works on the whole but some interactions are unnecessary. The ghosting of moments in the story brings a kind of thrill to watching it as you piece together the story in your mind – we feel like the single dad getting to know his daughter.
Roundabout is an intimate and cosy theatre space with a unique lighting system, which this reviewer has never seen before. Peter Small’s lighting design is groundbreaking and expressive; it has a life of its own complimenting the physical and energetic qualities to this performance. This mini-festival is supported by The Lowry.
Reviewed on: Friday 6th September 2019 | Image: Contributed