24:7 Theatre Festival, New Century House, Manchester
Since her acclaimed Ways To Look At Fish in the 2008 24:7 Theatre Festival, Colette Kane has spent a year on attachment to Paines Plough and now comes back to 24:7 with her new play Hatch.
Set in the living room of a reasonably smart Liverpool flat, brother and sister Luna and Sean begin the play by bickering and preparing for 'him' to arrive. The 'him' they refer to turns out to be their father, Conal, who has obviously not been around for some time but it is a while before we find out where he has been. They pussyfoot around him, trying to make him comfortable, offering to take him out and make him food and drinks, and he responds politely except for the occasional, discreet roll of the eyes.
Of course it doesn't remain as polite and calm as this as the reasons for Conal's absence come out and he starts to become stifled by their attempts to good-naturedly control him as well as by his son's attempts to bond with him.
There is some beautiful writing here with gently humorous dialogue and a very clever structure that skilfully weaves the exposition into the plot so that everything gradually becomes clearer as each bit of past information is delivered. All of this sounds very natural and is never contrived, which is a very difficult thing to pull off. The problem is that it seems to run out of steam about halfway through, which is a shame as there are still important and interesting plot elements in the latter section but the pace drops so much that it starts to drag.
There are some wonderful and extremely authentic performances all round from this superb castHelen Carter as Luna, Joe Shipman as Sean and Brian L Stephens as Conalin a production that is realised very well in the most part by director Nick Moss.
With some tightening up of the script and production in the second half, this will be a wonderful piece of theatre. As it stands at the moment, despite its flaws it is still worth seeing for some technically skilful and emotionally compelling writing with some excellent performances.
Until 31st July
Reviewer: David Chadderton