The Shadow of Your Hand

Michael Stewart
24:7 Theatre Festival
Sacha's Hotel, Manchester
to

Michael Stewart's thriller The Shadow of Your Hand begins with an apparently good deed, but it turns into something much darker and more threatening.

Steve, a successful advertising executive, brings homeless girl Maria back to his luxury flat after saving her from a situation that isn't fully explained but appears to have been life-threatening. He cooks her a meal and gives her his bed for the night, but it isn't long before the interest of a lonely man in this vulnerable young girl appears to be more selfish than altruistic, until his desperation for her to stay tempts him into shockingly-extreme actions.

Overall, this is a great study in extreme shifts of power between two characters, but it doesn't entirely work. Sometimes the dialogue becomes a little monotonous or breaks out into long, static stories—one of hers is broken up by some very unconvincing interjections from him to prompt her along that just come across as a half-hearted dramatic device—and while we can understand, if not condone, his motivation, it seems a high price for her to pay for a bed and a hot meal. However there are some gripping moments as the play takes us into darker and darker territory through multiple twists that aren't entirely unpredictable but are mostly effective.

The play is helped enormously by two very strong performances from well-known TV actor Steven Pinder full of nervous energy with a constant nervous laugh (perhaps slightly overdone occasionally) and the youngest of the Fleeshman acting family taking part in this year's 24:7, Rosie Fleeshman, who doesn't start drama school until September (she has been offered a place at Rose Bruford College). The piece is directed efficiently by Mrs Fleeshman herself, actor Sue Jenkins.

Despite its many flaws, this is a piece worth seeing for the way the power relationships are manipulated between the two characters and the strength of the performances, but some trimming of the unnecessary diversions such as the admittedly-impressive bubble-like chair that doesn't seem to serve any dramatic purpose and a better way of dealing with exposition than stopping for a lengthy monologue would increase the intensity of this play enormously.

Running to 29 July 2011

David Chadderton