by Alison Carr, Sarah McDonald Hughes, Luke Barnes, Matt Hartley.

Royal Exchange Studio St Ann’s Square M2 7DH To 22 June 2013.
Mon-Fri 7.30pm Sat 8pm Mat Thu 2.30pm & Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.

TICKETS: 0161 833 9833.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 12 June.

A wondrous idea, executed with verve.
Stories from four great northern cities (Leeds – where are you?) join in a celebration of the north. Young dramatists, one from each city where the production’s toured, write about their homeland. The pieces in practice have limited perspective, tending towards monologue, each focusing on one person’s experiences recounted excitedly.

This is the young individual’s north, a place of possibility and hope, quite often not far from becoming the travelogue of teenagers in love (just as Shakespeare can be used to sell England). For Tynesider Emma, in Alison Carr’s What Space Between? it’s a major leap from home in Gateshead to her own place in Newcastle, north of the Tyne. Such a wrench prompts a journey back, passing the comfy home where mother used to wave from the window, to the site of a an iconic tower-block being demolished (not, this time, Gateshead’s multi-storey Get Carter car-park).

Driving, and speed, take over in Sarah McDonald Hughes’ Manchester-set Electricity as Sally Hodgkiss’s Angel takes a nocturnal city-ride to love after the last train. It’s an enthused account, dependent on personal experience. In the right mood the city excites; in other circumstance it can depress.

That’s something which emerges with the two male writers after the interval. In Liverpool-set Dog Luke Barnes’ Johnny emerges from what it becomes clear is the sickness and social isolation of drug-taking, while over in Sheffield, Matt Hartley’s Adam gains a new sense of identity from Sheffield’s rivers – one named in his title – after memory-loss caused by a bike accident in the nearby Hope Valley.

Northern Spirit, organising the collaboration, seeks to emphasise positive aspects of the north. Yet, for all the graphics, images and energy, it’s hardly likely to convert diehard southerners. And, if northerners need so much cheering-up, can the places be all that wonderful?

They certainly can. It’s the energy and variety of the people, as well as the landscapes and industrial input that’s built northern identities. This is only part of them, but the four energetic and well-considered main performances in Chris Meads’s production show there are things for young people to shout about.

What Space Between by Alison Carr.
Emma: Kathryn Beaumont.

Electricity by Sarah McDonald Hughes.
Angel: Sally Hodgkiss.

Dog by Luke Barnes.
Johnny: Adam Search.

Porter’s Brook by Matt Hartley.
Adam: Josh Hayes.

Director: Chris Meads.
Designer: Lois Maskell.
Lighting: Phil Saunders.
Sound/Music: Caro C.
Film/Projection: Sam Meech.
Animation: Kate Jessop.

2013-06-17 16:43:02

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