THE GATEKEEPER To 25 February.


by Chloe Moss.

Royal Exchange (Studio) St Ann’s Square M2 7DH To 25 February 2012.
Mon-Fri 7.30pm Sat 8pm Mat Wed 2.30pm & 31 Jan, Sat 4pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.

TICKETS: 0161 833 9833.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 11 February.

Fission and fusion in the nuclear family.
It opens a bit like Alan Ayckbourn’s A Small Family Business, with parents surprising their daughter for her birthday as she marches in, angry on her mobile to a business colleague. If matters aren’t going well at work, playwright Chloe Moss reveals they’re lurking near-disastrously in the family.

These parents are part of the prosperously retired generation, while Stacey’s fighting her way in a tough world. Brother Rob’s here too, with local hair-stylist Angela. The reasons for their presence unfurl slowly in a skilful mix of discovery and implication.

Despite momentary humour there’s a growing sense of lives lived in quiet despair. Which becomes noisy as the alcohol takes hold and Julia’s marital misery leaks out. Few can play surface cheer and energy with a sense of underlying concern as Tricia Kelly does here.

Nick Moss does agitated Merseyside youth easily; the skill in writing and playing here is that Rob is struggling hard against the ‘loser’ label his father’s placed on him, and which comes to a crisis in the childhood game of betting on butterfly species, which provides the play’s title. But, despite attempts at merriment, childhood games won’t do any more as the crushing effect of father on son, and mother’s credulous indulgence, fiercely mount.

As does Mike’s impact on his daughter. Ian Redford’s terrific performance moves from apparent content, his mop of grey hair giving an initial sense of benevolence, to fury directed all around, climaxing when the outsider, Angela – whom Helen Carter elsewhere gives a tactful watchfulness – finally unmasks how he’s damaged his daughter’s life.

From the start Kate Coogan’s Stacey has a vivid agitation, her attempts at cheerfulness belied by fitful, jerky movement. Tessa Walker’s sympathetic production rightly makes Stacey’s scene with Angela, set apart in the kitchen of Chloe Lamford’s believably comfortable two-room setting, the quietly intense centre of Moss’s often explosive action.

Walker ensures a strong visual impact, including dancing and family photographs, up to an ending where parents and offspring slowly reassemble in a downbeat parody of their happy, earlier photo, in a play with far more family fission than fusion.

Julia: Tricia Kelly.
Mike: Ian Redford.
Stacey: Kate Coogan.
Angela: Helen Carter.
Rob: Nick Moss.

Director: Tessa Walker.
Designer: Chloe Lamford.
Lighting: Richard Owen.
Sound: Steve Brown.
Fight director: Alison de Burgh.
Assistant director: Anna Marsland.

2012-02-13 08:11:45

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