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Out of Dead Air

Mark Murphy
24:7 Theatre Festival
Pure, The Printworks, Manchester
(2009)

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The audience enters through sweeping seachlights before the lights come up on Lenny and Mike in a prison cell somewhere in a war zone after a night of heavy shelling, sorting and logging clothes and other personal belongings. Lenny is nervy, has trouble sleeping and shows signs of autism and he seems to enjoy the strict routine of life in the prison, whereas Mike is tough and aggressive and would do anything to break out and go home.

Something seems to have gone wrong with the routine as the usual second buzzer has not sounded, leading Mike to speculate that their captors had gone away or been killed in the previous night's bombing. A third prisoner, Al, who acts as a supervisor for the sorting comes in on the discussion. Mike finds some cigarettes in a shoe and starts to wonder what happened to the people whose clothes they are sorting. When a possibility of escape appears to show itself, for some it is a more difficult choice than you might expect between the certainty of life in the prison and the uncertainty of freedom.

Unfortunately the cast had to battle serious technical problems with the venue, from flickering lights and twitching chains hanging from the ceiling to the requirement of microphones badly taped to their faces and often sounding distorted to get over the constant, deafening roar of the air conditioning system.

Mark Murphy's script has some powerful and profound moments, but doesn't quite manage to sustain this power over the hour's running time, although it shows a great deal of promise. The play is given tight direction by Mike Heath and features very strong performances all round from Mark Butt as Al, Lewis Marsh as Lenny and Banji Ojo as Mike.

Reviewer: David Chadderton