CATCHMENT CHRISTIANS: Helen Kelly
Blue Orange, Birmingham 4 – 7 May, Artrix, Bromsgrove 14 May
Runs: 2h 15m, one interval
Review: Alexander Ray, Blue Orange, 6 May
Important and relevant topic, production good in parts but could do better.
Kerry Murdoch, in CATCHMENT CHRISTIANS, homes in on an intriguing and highly relevant topic – keeping up the appearance of a Christian faith in order to get your primary child (using the backing of the Church) into your first choice of school – in this case one that’s the ‘eighth best school in the country.’
Yet the title is broader than it may seem; the play encompasses the way religion is, in addition, conveniently used to legitimise sectarian killing (an historical IRA / British troop bombing.)
Murdoch structures her play as a long series of short (some extremely short) scenes. This enables her to weave her stories in and out, which is both a strength and weakness. The strength is the exploration of the two threads; the weakness that, with doubling and trebling, the stories aren’t always clear. Moreover, some scenes are so short as to be meaningless in dramatic terms. As, for instance, a whole scene which has depressed and floundering father, Ian (a Facebook (?) blogger) sitting in a chair while his Facebook entry appears letter by letter on a projected screen; it’s probably a good idea on paper (or on the PC), but is weak theatrically. That characters appear for one scene only (needing more doubling) doesn’t help matters.
Friction Theatre is a company with an emphasis on performing new writing; this production, with so many scenes, would benefit from a bit of tightening up.
Naomi Gilbert, as Finola, a mother working the system on behalf of her daughter but not convinced it’s the right thing to do, convinces us of her dilemma. Greg Hobbs gives a warm and sensitive, though sometimes under-energised, portrayal of a young man who carries a dark secret – but who has a happy ending.
Finola: Naomi Gilbert
Niall: James Allan
Clare, Teresa: Janette Summerfield
Ian: Graeme Braidwood
Pete, Michael: Greg Hobbs
Director: Kerry Murdock
Costume Designer: Rosheen McNamee
Set Designer: Colin Ward
Poster Design: Matt Banwell at Aptronym
Photography: Graeme Braidwood