Writer: Sheila Quiqley
Adaptor/Director: Derek Lawson
Reviewer: Brian Gorman
Sunderland author Sheila Quigley’s gritty crime novel, Run For Home, has been adapted for the stage by Manchester-based writer/actor Derek Lawson, and presented for one night at Manchester’s Dancehouse Theatre.
This is a huge undertaking, and one has to admire the sheer ambition of staging a novel which involves a multitude of plotlines, characters, and themes. The basic story concerns the kidnapping, and sex trafficking of a teen-age girl, the intensive manhunt by Salford Police (the story has been relocated from the novel’s original North East setting), and a family tearing itself apart thanks to an alcoholic mother desperate to keep the secrets of her past from destroying her children’s lives.
Presented on a totally bare stage, save for a couple of grotty tables and chairs, with little in the way of props, sound design, or music cues, this was certainly a pared-down production. Taran Knight as Brad was suitably cold, menacing, and thoroughly dislikeable, as a modern day sex trafficker, promising naïve young girls a career in show business, before selling them on into slavery and sexual abuse.
Carmen Dooley was a strong presence as the feisty Kerry, determined to find out what has happened to her missing sister, while Andrew Marsden as her brother Robbie gave a fine performance, expertly expressing a variety of emotions from suppressed anger to volcanic rage. A special mention also to the talented young man playing their younger sibling (I don’t have his name.)
Emma Thomas as the evil crime boss Mrs Archer certainly delivered a memorable performance, but seemed to be in a completely different play, and her ridiculously over-the-top costume was pure pantomime. Alex Harding’s D.C.I. Lorraine Hunt was a sharply-dressed, hard-nosed copper, but a loss of great chunks of her dialogue comes due to the actress spending far too much time facing away from the audience. It’s also hard to understand why the character swapped her work-appropriate trousers
for a tight black leather skirt for the final scenes (while still on duty as a Police Officer). Scenes with her fellow Police officers Daniels (Noel Wilson) and Carter (Luke Helly) lacked any real drama, and seemed under-rehearsed. Clichéd scenes of the coppers using Sweeney tactics and manhandling scumbags were offset by some genuinely harrowing moments depicting the terrified kidnap victims (no programmes or cast lists were available at the performance). Peter Michael George made a particularly scummy little drug dealer, all macho menace when facing off against a younger cohort, but a twitching halfwit when being castigated by his boss, and Clay Whitter made a nice job of channelling Tom Hardy as a cold-hearted, and Kray-like master criminal.
The lack of any real music cues made the numerous scene changes a constant irritation; even though they amounted to little more than the carrying on and off of the same tables and chairs. One scene set in a nightclub had the appropriate flashing lights, but, curiously, no music! A huge variety of scenes slowed the pace unnecessarily, with some scenes lasting for no more than a minute or two. With vital dialogue being hard to hear due to bad diction and lack of projection, it was pretty difficult to follow much of the story, and the whole enterprise needed a huge amount of tightening up.
A tremendously ambitious production that needs more than a one night performance.
Reviewed on 16th July 2014