The Plant

James Kerr

24:7 Theatre Festival

Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama

From 24 July 2015 to 26 July 2015

Review by David Chadderton

Like We Are The Multitude, playing across the corridor, The Plant pairs up two people, one with intellectual pretensions and the other with more popular tastes, in a situation in which they cannot escape one another.

Where they are is not clear, but their dress and surroundings suggest some kind of a prison cell.

Their escape is through telling stories. Leon (Alex Phelps) is writing a novel, and Keith (Jonny Cordingley) persuades him to improvise a story, which they both act out, with Leon playing himself and Keith playing almost everyone else.

In the story, Leon is on the train to work when he gets off at the wrong stop and somehow finds himself in a deserted town from which it seems impossible to escape. At the heart of this town is The Plant, a sinister power plant run by a Mr Burns-style rich old man. Keith becomes Leon's sidekick as they try to overcome the plant and its owner to escape the town and rescue its inhabitants, with the aid of Keith's duck.

The story has the poor logic and gaping plot holes that you'd expect from a story that had genuinely been improvised, whereas the dialogue has clearly been carefully honed to make Leon an annoyingly verbose pseudo-intellectual. There is some kind of logical progression between events, but no really satisfying narrative and lots of loose ends.

The duck, despite being the show's poster image, does not affect the story in any way; it just looks like something the writer thought was a funny, quirky idea at the time.

There are effective performances from both actors, and movement director Michael White has brought some of that physicality that Frantic Assembly has made fashionable into the storytelling, which at times, rather like the whole improvising a story idea, look rather like rehearsal drama games that have found their way into the final production.