by Laurence Wilson.

Paines Plough and Liverpool Everyman/Playhouse Tour to 13 May 2011.
Runs 1hr No interval
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 April at Artrix Bromsgrove.

Some punches land harder than others in critical look at the spirit of England today.

In the 1970s and 80s the 7:84 Theatre Companies toured England and Scotland respectively, taking plays to audiences who didn’t normally ‘do’ theatre. Founder John McGrath aimed to give working-class audiences a political angle on society and history.

He realised there was no point importing standard plays into the venues where 7:84’s audiences gathered (the company name sprang from a statistic stating how few of the population owned the majority of Britain’s wealth). So McGrath structured his scripts like a club night – songs, jokes and sketches which moved between the killingly funny and the killer political point.

There’s something of that in Laurence Wilson’s two-hander, toured by Paines Plough (a company named after a brewery and a pub) from Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre. Wilson showed he can handle the conventional play in his 2009 Everyman success Lost Monsters. Here he works in a freer form, with a touch of the comedy duo as the Merseyside performers, one Black, one White, present a picture of modern England.

Tiny Volcanoes – a title referring to the stresses bubbling under society’s surface – sets up a relation between its two characters as brothers-in-law, with Kevin’s wife about to give birth, threatening his presence on the show’s tour.

The pretence that these characters, bearing their actors’ first names, are living out their own lives makes for an inclusive atmosphere. Wilson uses this situation to spark-up the energy that takes us, via an audience-rendition of the National Anthem, into looking at the state of the nation.

Good and bad co-exist in his kaleidoscopic view. The material varies in the quality of its analysis, but can always rely on the performances in James Grieve’s production to be friendly yet punchy.

The old device of applying one style of talk to a new subject is neatly exploited as son tells father his secret – not the one dad’s ready to accept, about sexuality but about becoming a Muslim.

Tim Brunsden’s video projections contribute to the show, especially with images of various prime ministers in manic repetitive face and head movements as the politics of recent decades are tied together.

Kevin: Kevin Harvey.
Michael: Michael Ryan.

Director: James Grieve.
Lighting/Sound: Xenia Bayer.
Video: Tim Brunsden.

2011-05-09 13:16:14

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