TOUCHED: Lowe, Nottingham Playhouse till 4th March. 3Star***

TOUCHED: Stephen Lowe.

Nottingham Playhouse.
Runs: 2h 5m: one interval: till 4th March.
Performance times: 7.45pm (matinees Thurs 1.30pm and Sats 2.30pm),
Review: Alan Geary: 21st February 2017.

Wartime kitchen-sinker – warrants a look.
A relatively early play (1977) from Nottingham’s best playwright Stephen Lowe, Touched looks at the working-class lives of three sisters. It all happens during the summer of 1945, in the hundred days between the German and Japanese surrenders. That it’s set in Nottingham isn’t of obvious significance.

It’s partly the fault of the acting, partly the writing, but there’s a slow start in terms of character revelation and plot; only towards the interval do things pick up and begin to get interesting.

And sadly, the main washing-line scene – hanging out or taking in the washing scenes are obligatory in any kitchen-sinker; but crucial here – is spoiled by poor projection and articulation. It comes at the very beginning, when, presumably, the dialogue is intended to give us some backstory. Thereafter it’s an effort to work out who’s who.

There’s also a problem arising from the set design. A lot of the action has to take place on the narrow strip at the front of the stage, so the actors often find themselves strung out in a line facing the audience, which is usually bad practice.

But background sound – songs of the period from Bing Crosby and Vera Lynn, Churchill’s announcements, Richard Dimbleby at the liberation of Belsen, etc – is full of interest for your jobbing Second World War enthusiast.

Aside from the projection problem, acting is excellent, especially from Vicky McClure, as protagonist Sandra, and Aisling Loftus, as her sister Joan. McClure handles her soliloquies, and an attempted abortion episode in a tiny tin bath particularly well.

This was a summer of hope and idealism in Britain. Ordinary people were talking about the possibility of change for the better. So there’s a lot of dramatic irony. The personal (as it has turned out, illusory) aspirations of the characters seem to parallel and symbolise those associated with great events in the wider world.

At the end there’s a new-born baby in a pram; and a tree, previously covered in blossom, now blasted bare. Both clichés, but nevertheless powerful.

This isn’t up there with, for instance, Lowe’s D H Lawrence-based work, but it warrants a look.

Sandra: Vicky McClure.
Joan: Aisling Loftus.
Betty: Chloe Harris.
Mam: Elizabeth Rider.
Mary: Esther Coles.
Keith: Luke Gell.
Bridie: Sarah Beck Mather.
Harry: Ian Kirby.
Johnny: George Boden.
Pauline: Isobel Gilbert/Eve McLaughlin/Kaiya Withey.

Director: Matt Aston.
Designer: Jamie Vartan.
Lighting Designer: Nick Richings.
Composer and Sound Designer: Julian Butler.

2017-02-24 12:03:26

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