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Gary: A Love Story

James Harker
24:7 Theatre Festival
John Thaw Theatre, Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama
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In the middle of neat piles of cardboard filing boxes labelled "evidence / property", Andrew reconstructs the troubled life of his younger brother Gary, taking objects from the boxes, which he refers to as "exhibits", to use as props in his reconstructions.

Gary was born as a "blue baby", which is implied as the cause of his learning difficulties and later serious behavioural problems. Andrew looks after his brother through school, but then his mental health issues, combined with the influential and sometimes criminal company he keeps, become too much for him or his mother to handle, and he soon ends up in a young offender's institute. But the issues don't end there.

This combination of character narration and flashbacks has become very common, but it isn't easy to strike the correct balance between the two. Harker has done a pretty decent job to make the flow of the story feel natural despite the chronological jumps.

This is helped by some really slick and pacy direction from Danielle McIlven and lively, funny performances from Reuben Johnson as Andrew and Craig Morris as Gary. The pace slackens off later on when everything turns serious—perhaps a little too much, as it made the play feel longer than its 45-minute running time by the end.

But that's not to take anything away from one of the highlights of this year's 24:7: a funny and moving piece of theatre with a couple of very impressive performances.

Reviewer: David Chadderton