by Andrew Sheridan.

Soho Theatre 21 Dean Street W1D 3NE To 12 March 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Audio-described 2 March.
Captioned 9 March.
Runs: 2hr One interval.

TICKETS : 020 7478 0100.
Review: Carole Woddis 28 February.

Cold comfort in dark drama.
Some people have rotten childhoods, yet turn out ok? Why? How? I’m none the wiser after seeing Andrew Sheridan’s Winterlong, joint winner of the 2008 Bruntwood Prize.

Sheridan’s dark, dark winter of a childhood gives few hints as to why Oscar, abandoned as a baby by dysfunctional parents, brought up by his granny and a grandad (marvellous Paul Copley) who openly expresses hatred for him, should have developed into anything other than mad, bad and dangerous to know.

Harry McEntire – who shone in the Manchester Royal Exchange’s Punk Rock and A Thousand Stars Explode in the Sky at the Lyric Hammersmith – produces another heartfelt portrait as a teenager far beyond his years in wisdom and generosity of spirit who despite the lack of love is, as we leave him, on the point of reaching out and at last making a human connection.

In fact, Oscar seems altogether too exceptional given the cruelty meted out to him from a world that, as drawn by Sheridan – and excepting perhaps Gabrielle Reidy’s granny – seems beyond redemption.

Sheridan’s dystopian vision, even in Sarah Frankcom’s scrupulously unsensationalistic Royal Exchange production, has a Sarah Kane visceral fury about it. Whether it is pulling at scabbed knees or accounts of dreams that reach into the worst crevices of human behaviour, Sheridan seems determined to rub our noses in it. He writes with a sense of the surreal, sometimes Pinter-like, sometimes almost poetic but given the repetitive insistence on bodily – particularly anal – functions the play comes close to being repellent. Yet, despite this, a light of hope does emerge.

Frankcom obtains all-round terrific performances from her cast, in which Laurence Mitchell as a creepy paedophile, as well as Oscar’s psychopathic young Dad, excels.

Swathed in a layer of plastic sheeting behind which are glimpsed washing-machines, radios and general detritus, the design suggests an hermetic other world, cordoned off and disconnected; or as the play’s ten scenes are set on the banks of Manchester’s canal, discarded rubbish.

Whichever, the effect is to suggest how accumulation – of incidents, situations, conversations – turns us into the person we become.

Oscar/Boy: Harry McEntire.
Helen/Girl: Rebecca Callard.
John: Paul Copley.
Malcolm/Neil/Philip: Laurence Mitchell.
Jean: Gabrielle Reidy.

Director: Sarah Frankcom.
Designer: Amanda Stoodley.
Lighting: Richard Owen.
Sound: Peter Rice.
Dialect coach: Joe Windley.
Assistant director: Andy Rogers.

Winterlong was first performed at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester on 2 Feb 2011. It transferred to Soho Theatre, London from 23 Feb 2011.

2011-03-03 01:59:28

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