Reviewer: Sam Lowe
The lights come up on Switch Manchester. They are a young company of creatives made up of actors, writers, directors, designers, you name it… who present two plays tonight. Their intention is to foster the development of a variety of young talent (aged 17-29) which Manchester has to offer. What an amazing opportunity. An opening to create and collaborate.
Writer: James Butterfield
Director: Annie Rogers
To start everything off, we have The House. In your 20s, you feel unbeatable, full of drive, and are blissfully unaware of what life will throw at you. You never want to grow up. However, you’re forced to take on responsibilities and deal with life’s complexities whether you like or not. Although, the young people of The House are the ones who say, “F*ck responsibility!” They soon realise the consequences of their ways.
We’re in a messy and occupied living room. Seems normal. But, it’s not. Alf (Gabriel Clark) and Jonathan (Isah Roach) are the best of friends. Their friendship works well because Jonathan deals with the complicated stuff while Alf wrecks everything: the two balance each other out. They have no idea they are living in a house where if you stay inside for too long crazy things begin to happen.
Yes, they and their friends take drugs; yes, they talk about meaningless things, although the conversations always end up routing to something meaningful and expressive. Do people genuinely like their lives? Some open up about depression and their mental health or the voice of self-doubt which eats away their minds.
When it comes down to it the characters search for temporary highs to escape their ever-intensifying problems. Looking for something which releases large quantities of serotonin into the brain. Some, “Truth Juice”. They are stuck in a vicious, unforgiving, and repetitive loop. The outlandish and eerie glitches, time jumps, echoes, are a metaphor for this. Their self-destructive behaviour wounds others. The more this endures, the worse it becomes. They want to escape the house, but they cannot.
Other actors in the play include: Elli Kypriadis, Sara Abanur, Tahla Krosschell, Andy Long, and Jack Cave. Rogers makes sure the characters are always active and moving, making visible their deep craving to resolve their personal issues and escape the house.
Writer: Oceana Nzene Cage
Director: Christopher Brown
Finally, this evening, a dystopian comedy called 8055. The strongest piece out of the two. This is an investigation into the self within the bureaucracy. In this world, there is a serious adherence to fixed rules, and a hierarchy of authority reflected brilliantly in the staging. It tests out numerous ideas regarding authority and ineffectiveness. People are numbers. 55, 58, and 80 are unserviceably existing in a monochrome, cooperative workplace when 08 unknowingly enters. Absurdist writing meets dark comedy here to convey a serious message about how this world has become paranoid and gone health and safety mad. The company slogan, “Stay alive. Feel alive” brain washes all the employees.
Cage’s script is layered with a plethora of thought provoking and stimulating ideas. This a bleak and claustrophobic world where employers are severely delusional in thinking that being more cautious equates to increased productivity. Characters worry about unnecessary things or are curious because they feel bored or unfulfilled. They are concerned they don’t know the answers to everything which probably stems from the influence of everyone else’s attempts to control, regulate, and comprehend everything.
The numbered characters move in an angular and precise manner and are constantly positioned in a symmetrical fashion on stage. It’s like watching a Wes Anderson film. This is all a result of Brown’s commendable direction. Brogen Campbell, Zahi Wade, Rose Walker, and Kendal Boardman are completely on the mark with their performances. They hit that fine line between natural acting and exaggerated, playful comedy. Creative writing fuses with committed acting.
Both plays tie together in a satisfying way under the dominant theme that the characters want to escape from where they are trapped in the present moment. Go and see Switch Manchester’s evening of works to witness the creatives of the future.
Runs until: 8thFebruary 2019 | Image: Contributed