Brief Encounters

JoJo Kirtley, Anne Haydock, Alan Cliff, Jane Tonge, Sue Blundell and Mari Lloyd

24:7 Theatre Festival

Manchester University campus

From 24 July 2015 to 26 July 2015

Review by David Chadderton

The 12th 24:7 Theatre Festival, probably the last in the current format and significantly shorter than previous years, kicked off at its new home in the Martin Harris Centre in the University of Manchester with four full prooductions and a host of other events.

One of these extra events is Brief Encounters, a series of monologues performed outdoors around the University campus inspired by famous scientists with some connection to Manchester. Some feature the scientist him- or herself or a contemporary colleague, whereas some look back on his or her work through the eyes of a modern-day character.

The opening monologue, It's Not For The Likes Of Us by JoJo Kirtley, is a lovely piece performed very well by Steph Reynolds, who is a modern, working-class girl whose hero is Marie Stopes, wondering whether even this red-brick university is for "the likes of her", especially after mixing with the posh Bury Grammar School girls at the open day.

In Looking Through John Dalton's Eyes by Anne Haydock, John Smeathers is the colleague, Joseph Ransome, who removed the great physicist's eyes the day after he died at Dalton's request to test his theory that his colour blindness was due to discoloration of the fluid of the eye (it wasn't). It's a little overwrought and over-explanatory but is interesting.

Alan Cliff's Four Hundred Yards features Graham Eaglesham as engineer Joseph Whitworth talking, rather hesitantly, about striving for perfection.

Jane Tonge's Tracing Stars tells the story of radio astronomy pioneer Bernard Lovell through his daughter (Ruth Evans) telling his story for her grandchildren into a digital recorder—a bit of a clunky device, but it gets the point across.

John Smeathers returns in Treasure by Sue Blundell as Peter Mark Roget, of Roget's Thesaurus fame, which brings together episodes in his life with his love of words in a way that's quite clever but hadn't quite gelled at the opening performance.

Finally, Steph Reynolds returns as a young woman undergoing fertility treatment in Miracle by Mari Lloyd, in a very effective piece inspired by IVF pioneer Patrick Steptoe.

This mixed bag of short pieces is a great addition to the 24:7 programme and certainly worth seeing—but do dress for the weather (preferably a light raincoat, as umbrellas get in the way).