Manchester-based New Attitude Theatre Company presented the (mis)adventures of couple Ben and William in Loitering with Intention and Three’s a Crowd, Four’s a M*th£r in a double-bill specially for the Manchester Pride Fringe. As the two comedies are very different in their style and tone, I’m going to split them into two reviews. Beginning with Loitering with Intention we join Ben and William as they pass the time waiting. But what are they waiting for? Whilst they wait, they consider the important issues of the day: Britney, boys and Barrowman..
Kurt Nikko and Neil Ashton as Ben and William have a lot riding on their shoulders. They must carry the story for the whole hour as a two-hander. For the most part they are successful but at times their partnership stalls whilst the script meanders onto a different topic and the actors change gear. That said, Nikko and Ashton are very successful enchanting the audience during a demanding and lengthy script for them.
Alasdair Jarvie and Neil Dymond-Green’s script itself is fairly witty, if relying on basic innuendo at times. Discussing general matters to pass the time, it lurches from one irritation (awful self-checkouts) to the next (old people) without any real overarching theme. The script is not without its subtle moments but on the whole it tends to lean towards the trivial than any in-depth insight. A shame in some parts as the underlying tone it has gives the chance to be satirical in a way many comedies play safe and avoid. This said, the script is not without its finer moments with some clever puns around the acts at this year’s Manchester Pride and some witty observations on everyday life.
The closest thing it seems to ape is the theatrical style of 60′s and 70′s sitcoms. The pairing of Ben and William is reminiscent of Steptoe and Son, or more aptly The Likely Lads. Perhaps this is Director Helen Parry’s intention in her theatrical direction.
The attempt to keep the audience guessing why Ben and William are there is also perhaps its biggest weakness. A ‘will-they-won’t-they’ dynamic flounders without the background to hang the characters off, and when there are attempts to develop them, the conversation pinballs off onto a different subject. There is some neat mirroring where William might be very anti-showbiz, but is ironically not as socially and politically aware as the showbiz-loving Ben. Fortunately, late in the day, the jigsaw pieces of the plot do finally slot together in a cathartic way.
One thing I loved was that Loitering with Intention, although talking universally on topics is also a distinctly Mancunian voice with observations on life up and down Canal Street which is apt for the Fringe, but also pleasing as many ‘Mancunian’ pieces could realistically be set anywhere. Here, it does feel like there has been effort to anchor the text in Manchester, and make it topical at the same time.
Loitering with Intention is a diverting little piece that reflects on society in a harmless and sometimes touching way. Admittedly, there are a few misfires, some jokes are laboured rather than loved, but the heart-warming ending justifies the ambiguity about exactly our characters are there for. Looking forward, the peace and tranquillity of the waiting room is about to be shattered in the sequel though with the arrival of William’s mother. But of course, that’s all still to come..
The Fiction Stroker gives Loitering with Intention three strokes out of five:
The story continues in Three’s a Crowd, Four’s a Mother, a review of which can be found here.