The Crimson Retribution

Steve Pearce
24:7 Theatre Festival
New Century House, Manchester
to

Steve Pearce brings a comic book superhero into an uncomprehending real and violent world bent on retribution in his third play for 24:7, The Crimson Retribution.

The masked superhero of the title rescues Amy from a mugger at the start of the play and then camps out at her flat for some weeks after, cleaning up and making tea, much to the bewilderment of her, her boyfriend Sean and Sean's intimidating half-brother Kyle. Amy is on long-term sick leave with ME; Kyle owns the flat that she and Sean live in and forces Sean to help him with his various scams. However it seems that The Crimson Retribution has some history with Kyle that will at some point come to a head.

Untangling the various elements of this play, there are at least two plays here that would be very interesting in themselves but are weakened by being combined with everything else. There is a very intense and frightening violent domestic drama about a couple ruled by fear and forced to do things they are morally opposed to, but this is never allowed to come to a satisfactory conclusion because of the deus ex machina of the superhero who will make everything right. On the other hand, the idea of a character coming out of a fictional world into the real world may not be original (this is done superbly in Inkheart and The Purple Rose of Cairo) but there is plenty of scope for taking this idea in an original direction. However there is little development of the title character's storyline.

Add to this the danced links between scenes, the cartoonish flashbacks within naturalistic scenes and the excellent cartoon backdrops by Hammo and it looks like both writer and director Clare Howdon have raided the theatrical toybox and have ended up with a mixed-up pile of interesting toys.

Easily the standout performance is from Alex Rogerson as ineffectual brother Sean who gives a beautifully-nuanced portrayal of this rather pathetic character. Emily Fleeshman, one of four members of the Fleeshman acting dynasty involved in this year's 24:7, also gives a very strong performance as Amy. Paul Sockett is the masked avenger of the title who gets the right stance and a deepened, over-emphasised way of speaking that gets the humour of the parody across but becomes a little wearing after a while. David Degiorgio can be frighteningly intimidating at times, but sometimes he takes his character so far over-the-top that he becomes more cartoonish than the cartoon character.

Altogether we end up with a mixed bag of good ideas and some good comic and dramatic writing that could make a couple of decent plays but don't work well as one.

Running to 29 July

David Chadderton