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Sparks – The Lowry, Salford

Writer: Brian Marchbank

Director: Alyx Tole

Reviewer: Laura Ord

[rating:4]

SPARKS - The LowryGetting a house extension can be stressful. Mix that with a relationship that has been on the rocks for years and then add a builder/life coach/ex-con and you get the perfect recipe for Sparks!

Life is turned upside down when Jack, a handsome lad out on probation wonders into the lives of Rita and Roy, a middle aged couple with an unhappy marriage. Offering them friendship as well as his construction skills, Jack soon becomes a lot more than an employee.

Matthew Melbourne is a natural playing the rogue with no conscience, Jack. His relationships with Alexis Tuttle as Rita and Leo Atikin as Roy is brilliant to watch. He moves the plot along well and is the perfect middleman between the waring couple. He sells evil as good in an utterly convincing way.

Sadly, there are a few too many line fluffs from Tuttle and her voice is slightly annoying to listen to as she screeches many of her interactions. That said, she still gives a solid performance. But, she is at her best when she literally lets her hair down and seems far more relaxed in these non-confrontational scenes.

The star of the show is definitely Leo Atkin. His characterisation of the stickler for the rules, magnolia loving, bore Roy is a joy to watch. And as Roy transforms, Atkin provides the majority of the comedy moments as well as the most thought provoking ones. His performance is complex and yet he makes it appear so easy.

Brian Marchbanks previous career as a police officer shines through in this writing. His ability to show these deep characters without stereotyping is a testament to the wide variety of people he will have interacted with and genuinely understood. Perhaps the only downside to the characters Marchbank has created, is that it is difficult to see what Rita and Roy ever did see in each other all those years ago. His writing is fun and gets the audience laughing along quickly. It makes you wonder why he didn’t give up being a cop years ago to pursue his writing.

As an aside, each scene break was filled with a brilliant choice of music from the 70’s which complimented the piece from start to finish. It is exactly what you can imagine Rita and Roy listening to so they don’t have to speak to each other.

Sparks is a thoroughly enjoyable black comedy. The main selling point is the wonderful characters written by Marchbank, but its hard to pick fault with anything else as well. It is definitely worth watching and strongly recommended.

Runs until: 17th March 2013

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