by Janine Waters music & lyrics by Simon Waters.

The Edge Theatre & Arts Centre Manchester Road Chorlton Manchester M21 9JG To 22 December 2012.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 December.

Nothing run of the mill about place or play in a happy theatrical venture
Among the suburban warren of South Manchester, on a street curiously unassertive for the name Manchester Road, in a building half-hidden behind a Methodist Church and up an assertively Victorian staircase to a former Sunday School – well, it’s not your standard drama venue is it? So, is it a family concern? It’s website uses the name “watersedgearts” and here’s the first full production, among classes in theatre and visiting one-offs – created and directed by people named Waters.

If it all seems somewhat curious, slightly left-field, a tad irregular that’s (a) a good thing in days of flat-pak, multi-page, criteria-laden funding application forms, and (b) entirely consistent with this strange but enjoyable play with songs.

Not a bad piece for the time of year, with a fairytale-like edge of fantasy and colour, it turns its back on the room’s high-raised proscenium stage for a fit-up platform, where Gareth Starkey’s lighting can emphasise designer Kevin Freeman’s metallic scaffolding, suggesting constriction (actual bars at the start) or a disorganised array of softer, vibrant-coloured textures.

Lives are disorganised too. Edwardian Cassie, in the Peter Pan era, mourns her dead mother, while living with a father whose own state has frozen his creativity. He’s past taking notice of Cassie’s outcries when she experiments with medicine or drugs, putting her into an altered state that frightens and leaves her apparently among an 18th-century acting troupe. Except they’re all at sea, abandoned without fuel or nourishment to sustain them by a government that’s outlawed artistic freedom. And not in the 18th-century.

As Dr Who meets Goldoni, a stern-voiced theatre director, alone aloft, is a new authority-figure, whose players’ talent to amuse is used to abuse and accuse each other. The flair of Jenny Platt’s Eliana and Jos Vantyler’s Fausto to hammer-and-tongs it has an immediacy that can sideline the anxieties of Paislie Reid’s more emotionally-shaded Cassie.

These people at sea search for hope, in a very individual story about freedom and imagination which probably works because it arose directly from the creators’ own imaginations. The songs are pleasant, the bright closing number summing up theatre audiences incisively.

Eliana: Jenny Platt.
Cassie: Paislie Reid.
Fausto: Jos Vantyler.
Stefano/Jim: Everal Walsh.
Claudio: Crag Whittaker.

Director: Janine Waters.
Designer: Kevin Freeman.
Lighting: Gareth Starkey.
Sound: Benedict Almond.
Musical Director: Simon Waters.

2012-12-25 12:42:38

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