Maybe We’re Both Abandoned

Claire Cole
Antimatter Productions
Salford Arts Theatre

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Maybe We’re Both Abandoned
Maybe We’re Both Abandoned
Maybe We’re Both Abandoned
Maybe We’re Both Abandoned
Maybe We’re Both Abandoned

There is an ominous atmosphere at the Salford Arts Theatre. Posters outside the venue encourage army enlistment and remind patrons they are under observation.

The vibe continues inside as a pair of ever-smiling but masked, suited and booted officials effusively greet audience members and remind them the world is under the sovereign control of The Deep, a Lovecraftian-type deity, which consumes believers rather than welcomes them to paradise. Inevitably, the society which worships The Deep is totalitarian, keeping citizens under surveillance on behalf of their god. As in Orwell’s 1984, the regime is in constant conflict with neighbouring states about which highly emotive and misleading information is circulated.

Nine-year-olds Kate (author Claire Cole) and Harry (James Bryan) meet in a school playground with few facilities but a pair of obvious surveillance cameras. They have dysfunctional parents in common—an alcoholic mother and a father who (probably) has post-traumatic stress disorder. They also do not really believe in The Deep. But they have swallowed whole the state’s propaganda about their wartime enemies and, with youthful innocence, interpret facts and situations in a way which has tragic consequences.

In adulthood, Kate is a doctor but also a recovering cocaine addict and compulsive liar, while Harry struggles to know his own identity, simply adapting to whichever group of people he encounters. Both agree things have never been the same since their childhood misadventure.

Director Ezri Mannion stages an imaginative production. Monologues are performed direct to the audience or in profile. Scene changes or shifts from one character to the other are marked by dramatic mimes. The contrast with the naturalistic performances makes for a slightly otherworldly vibe.

In a pair of excellent performances, Claire Cole and James Bryan make surprisingly convincing children. Cole has a restless, giddy but somewhat pushy personality and Byran responds with a more diffident approach—someone who is willing to follow. As adults, there is a sense of disappointment about both characters, a stale feeling of hopes unfulfilled.

Cole’s script is highly ambitious, seeking to not only reconcile the role of religion or belief in a dystopian society but to demonstrate the corrosive impact of indoctrination upon vulnerable minds. There is convincing ‘world building‘ of the alternate reality with children’s nursery rhymes based upon military manoeuvres.

Children who accept propaganda are often perceived as monstrous, Khmer Rouge type, creatures brainwashed into thoughtless actions, but, refreshingly, Kate and Harry retain their bruised humanity. They behave almost like characters in an Enid Blyton story, naïvely believing their conclusions are correct and baffled at the outcome. Thankfully, the conclusion suggests Kate and Harry achieve a degree of reconciliation in their confused adult lives.

Maybe We’re Both Abandoned is an ambitious play, imaginatively staged and very well performed.

Reviewer: David Cunningham

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