A Theatre Show
Kings Arms, Salford
A quartet of actors at the start of their profession find it so hard to get a foot on the career ladder, they give up on honesty and become talent agents. No, they’re not completely divorced from morality—they just become thieves.
The Theatre, a highly prestigious venue, invites the friends to stage their self-written play on condition they hire the venue for the event at considerable cost. The Theatre even goes so far as to suggest how funds might be raised—by stealing from the warehouse where all four are employed, as they wait for their break in showbiz.
It is tempting to judge A Theatre Show by what it is not rather than its actual nature. The set-up, an apparently omnipotent Theatre, leads one to half-expect the events in which the theatre-makers are caught up will turn out to be part of a real-life play staged by The Theatre. This is not the case—there are no surreal or supernatural elements.
Marco Biasioli’s script has occasional hints of social comment. Most of us will be familiar with the contradictory feeling of being commended for performing well in a job we regard as anything but fulfilling. Although set in the world of theatre, in-jokes are kept to a blessed minimum. The risk of ending up in gaol is acknowledged with the observation things could be worse—they could end up in Cats.
A Theatre Show is that rarest of productions: a comedy without an axe to grind. In that respect, it resembles the BBC TV series The Outlaws, a group of inherently decent people slipping into morally dubious actions. The brief running time and need to include a series of comedic incidents limits the characterisation to hints of possible relationships between the friends or brief background details. But the characters are so appealing as to allow scope for possible expansion should the play be redrafted into two acts.
The different values placed upon art are demonstrated by the four actors and the jaded manager of The Theatre. The actors are so high-minded and dedicated to their craft, they never consider any other use for their ill-gotten gains than to fund the staging of their play, even though one of their number is trying to raise a child alone. The theatre manager on the other hand demonstrates there is more to life than art by grabbing the cash and heading for the beach.
The fringe, with limited sets and small spaces, is not a natural home for physical comedy. Director Liam Grogan, therefore, sets a chaotic mood in which anything can happen. The story is told in a non-linear fashion, jumping back and forth to events out of order. The ramshackle set is built from the contraband which has been stolen from the warehouse, boxes stacked higgledy-piggledy somehow form a doorway.
A Theatre Show is a lively and engaging production, its success limited by the fringe not being entirely compatible with physical comedy rather than any lack of quality.
Reviewer: David Cunningham