Manchester-based theatre company Square Peg brings us a physical love story in Forwards and Backwards. After a chance encounter two lives are changed forever in this emotional and fast-paced story of fate, sacrifice and love. Two people find themselves trapped, at the mercy of circumstance, as they come to realise that every act is an act of betrayal, against each other, their dreams and their future.
During Forwards and Backwards, we dip in and out the lives of Gary and Catherine, a couple who meet on a train going from Manchester to London. She is a second year History student with activist leanings. He is a recent graduate trying to make his way in the world, and failing. What follows is the timey-wimey story of their relationship as it buckles under the strain of grief, recession and betrayal.
Katie Robinson’s Catherine neatly encapsulates the youthful optimism of someone at a time in their life when they can feel that they can change the world. Robinson’s character is the stronger of the two here, perhaps by nature of her character being immensely believable. She runs a gamut of emotions throughout the play from love to grief convincingly.
Michael White’s Gary never really lives up to the potential his character has. You never get a sense of why this couple are together, especially given the positioning of youth vs. experience that we have here. This frustrates me, as there is the potential to explore the failure of his career, and by nature, his relationship as things fall apart. All of this sadly leaves Gary a bit of a one dimensional Mummy’s boy. Even when he threatens to become a bit sinister, and controlling over Catherine, this does not feel like it is followed through to its fullest extent. When he does find his own voice, it is too little, too late.
Part-mime, part-flashback, the way the narrative flows physically, and so expressively, seamlessly transferring from one scene to the next is mesmerising and helps to flesh out this two-hander. Together, the twosome vividly transforms a bare stage into a variety of locations seemingly effortlessly. However, the spell is broken sometimes when just as the performers get their teeth into a scene, we dance off to another flashback, another location.
The flaws in the characters cannot detract from the style and innovation of the production. There are some sensitivity handled moments, and at times the layers slip back to some hidden depths to this quirky little play. However, whilst Forwards and Backwards is trying to tell and old story in a new way sadly journey’s end ends up as a mixed bag.
The Fiction Stroker gives Forwards and Backwards three strokes out of five:
You can find out more about Square Peg and what’s coming up next for them on their website.