Luke Walker and Sally Lawton
24:7 Theatre Festival, New Century House, Manchester
If you're looking for an example of the range of material on offer at this year's 24:7 Theatre Festival, Make Believe is certainly a very different style of play to anything else on offer at New Century House.
It begins as 'The Ballerina', in pink tutu, pops out of a giant present box, wishes herself a happy birthday and plays party games with herself, which she always wins. Her prizes are sweets, but her diabetes means that a prize is followed by an injection. She conjures up her childhood imaginary friend, 'The Jockey', who appears out of the sofa. We are led to believe that this is an annual ritual on her birthday, where she conjures him up and forces him to recreate a tragic event between her and her brother when they were children. He tries to persuade her to kill him off as she is 29 and shouldn't need an imaginary friend any more and he wants to be free to be someone else's imaginary friend.
There are some serious elements to this play, but they really play second fiddle to the comic bickering between the two characters, which constitutes almost all of the hour's running time. The humour tends towards the silly rather than anything cerebral although there is a lot of rapid wordplay, but unfortunately much of it comes across as a little infantile rather than funny, and while there are some genuinely funny moments they are too few in number.
The piece is performed by the co-writers Sally Lawton, who does a decent job of creating a childish 29-year-old, and Luke Walker, who has superb comic delivery which is often superior to the lines he is delivering. Director Alyx Tole does a very good job of utilising the stage space and varying the pace to set the correct tone.
While this is certainly an interesting and original way to tell a story such as this, the comedy isn't funny enough and the serious elements are just not developed enough for it all to come together as a coherent piece.
Until 31st July
Reviewer: David Chadderton