Adaptor: Nir Paldi, George Mann
Director: Nir Paldi
Reviewer: Jo Beggs
In a night that explores extraordinary journeys, the one that’s been taken by Salford University second year students is perhaps the most apparent. Working with Lowry Associate Artists, Theatre Ad Infinitum, they’ve spent twenty days creating a piece of performance that genuinely stands up beside Ad Infinitum’s own remarkable work. It’s these eighteen young performers that open the double bill with Run, a harrowing and sharply political devised piece that explores the treacherous journeys taken by refugees fleeing to Europe. Using real refugee stories, interspersed with the babble of online comment, they have made an important work that places the human experience at the centre of the political argument.
Run is an incredibly strong, mature piece of theatre which proves that, even with such a limited level of experience, young performers really can rise to the occasion when working with the right professionals. Their commitment to the project has clearly been complete and they perform with unassailable confidence. It is very possibly the finest piece of student theatre this reviewer, and probably the Lowry, has ever seen.
Run is hugely successful in using its large cast, something which sometimes makes student productions seem overcrowded, as though the Director has needed to find something for everyone to do. Here the piece moves from intimate scenes with a few performers to large, powerful crowd scenes. It’s a shame that there isn’t a little more variance in the tone of the various sections – the whole piece is stormed through at speed and at top volume with a live drummer providing a sound score behind the action – and some moments of stillness might have made some of the scenes even more poignant.
Quite the opposite is the case in Odyssey, Ad Infinitum’s 2009 work that forms the second half of the double bill, in which a solo performer creates a gloriously textured world. George Mann rattles through Homer’s Odyssey, telling the tale of Odysseus making his arduous journey home from the Trojan Wars. The parallels with the stories in Run are often startling, the vulnerable human, “mortal, weary and sick at heart”, pitched against the elements, surviving through a combination of strength of will and believing he has the gods on his side.
Through animated storytelling and hugely inventive physical theatre, Mann creates a host of characters – human, superhuman and monstrous – and takes us on a twenty year, perilous, and rather bloody, trip across oceans and foreign lands, finally arriving at his own great hall and falling into the arms of his ever faithful wife. Odyssey is a complete delight, a sharp, fresh hour of magic that so deserves this timely revival.
Reviewed on 20 January 2016