Talking Props Theatre in association with Box of Tricks
New Century House, Manchester (24:7 Theatre Festival)
Amongst all these large casts of young actors, it's a nice change to see a simple two-hander with a couple of older characters in James Leach's My Arms, (not to be confused with the Tim Crouch play of almost the same name but in the singular) played by two very good local actors.
The play is told in reverse chronology, starting with a lengthy scene in which Colin, who has recently got "out" and has to go to regular "meetings", is reaquainting with Helen, who it seems has had to build a life without him for the last four years. The meeting is polite before becoming rather more tense as old conflicts are revived and mixed with new issues about how they move on together now that Colin has returned and, as he insists, is not the man he was. However it seems that Helen has already moved on. Subsequent scenes go gradually back over those years in order to reveal what happened to tear their family apart.
The story is quite interesting and the reverse telling of it works reasonably well without adding a huge amount to the way it is received, but the dialogue is written in that self-consciously staccato style in which no one ever finishes a sentence, which becomes wearing quite quickly. The whole thing is performed at such a slow pace—in many scenes there seems to be a pause after almost every line—that it often drags quite a bit.
Director Adam Quayle has managed to recruit two very experienced actors for the two roles in Roberta Kerr and Josh Moran, who both do an excellent job of putting across the characters and the awkwardness of the situation, although perhaps the line about him being 48 should be re-thought.
One element of the production that does deserve a mention is a beautifully subtle sound design from Chris James that just touches in some barely-noticeable sound effects in the background and links the scenes with some atmospheric piano music. Video artist George Haydock has created some flickering images between scenes that are difficult to make out when projected onto a net curtain.
This is an interesting piece that has been well-received by some, but I must confess that due to the slow pace I found it a bit dull.
Reviewer: David Chadderton