Award-winning Organised Chaos Productions have embarked on a North West tour with their new productions Broken and A Lot of It About. But do they measure up to the success of their earlier productions? Lets find out..
Broken flits between the endearing May and the mental breakdown she is having against the treatment administered to May by a therapist who is battling with her own demons.
Plays that explore the relationship between life, death and mental illness are nothing new – the difference should be in the execution and unfortunately Broken needs fixing to address this. Strangely lacking in emotional impact, Broken is stilted by a clumsy execution that fails to draw the emotional depth the story requires to work.
It is difficult to sympathise with Una Love’s therapist. Despite her efforts, the dialogue sadly feels lifted from Holby City and renders her character terribly dry. Emma Cliff’s Carla is instantly likeable and engaging whilst Karl Greenwood’s Tom is stealthy creepy as he controls May.
Central to the play is Hannah Keeley’s commanding performance as May. Endearing and bouncy, her portrayal is at its strongest when the story delves into memories of her trauma and she threatens to drown within these dark memories. A scene between her and Greenwood on a waltzer is particularly effective.
Sadly, overall though, Broken is less than the sum of its parts. A therapy scene towards the conclusion ought to have been more dark and disturbing than it was, and it fails to escape the clichés that have defined dozens of other plays of its ilk.
The Fiction Stroker gives Broken three strokes out of five:
A Lot of It About
The effects of sex aversion therapy in the 60’s and 70’s are explored in this devastatingly simple play as middle-aged Ben looks back on the wreckage of his relationship with his wife Ann with the help of his younger self..
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best, and this is proved by the witty script. Ben (in this performance due to illness played by Daniel Thackeray) is a withdrawn shadow of his younger self (Michael Whittaker). In beautiful symmetry, both characters are dressed the same. Frequently interacting with each other, both encapsulate a sadness and anger we all have buried within us. But when combined with the regret of two lives ruined where his wife Ann is concerned, regret turns to disgust with some powerful effects. Thackeray is haunting with contained anger whilst Whittaker’s compellingly abrasive younger Ben wavers from wide boy to touching sensitivity with consummate ease.
Kate Mitchell captures the hope and lust of the young Ann, and brilliantly embodies the Keep Calm and Carry On attitude of the consultant during the sex aversion therapy scenes. Tracy Gabbitas is the older, more worn down Ann, but also infuriatingly snobbish as the Headmistress at Ben’s school. John Dayton’s Kev flits in and out of the narrative, as a reflection of Ben’s unhappy story. Sanjay Sutar rounds off the cast as Marek who meets both the younger and older Ben, the latter in a particularly touching scene.
Dealing with the duality of what it means to be ‘normal’ and ‘different’, in A Lot of It About writer Ned Hopkins has crafted a entertaining, but culturally relevant piece. Use of the device of a radio phone-in as discussion on the nature of homosexuality in the modern day is inspired.
The humour that sometimes permeates plays dealing with homosexuality as a topic can feel very forced, but here it flows naturally. Director Alex Shepley juggles this humour and drama and coaxes strong performances to produce an affecting story that builds towards a conclusion that for once is laden with hope. Thoroughly recommended.
The Fiction Stroker gives A Lot of It About five strokes out of five:
Organised Chaos double bill runs until Sat 27 April at The Lowry. From there it goes to Square Chapel in Halifax on 2 May, the Lantern Theatre in Liverpool on 10/11 May, the Oldham Coliseum on 14 May and the Pavilion Arts Centre in Buxton on 8 June.
For further information on the tour, please visit Organised Chaos’ website.