Jim Cartwright
The Lowry, Salford

James Cartwright as Shane in Raz Credit: Oliver Rosser

A night out with Shane is a journey into the dark underside of modern life.

A stacker truck driver during the week, on Friday nights he emerges from a nine-minute tanning session as “a weekend millionaire”, a bright butterfly of a character lifted aloft on drink and drugs and ready to hit a town that, inevitably, hits him right back.

In Jim Cartwright’s new one-man play, performed here by his son James, we tag along with Shane on his stimulant-fuelled journey into a contemporary heart of darkness. For all its reckless grimness it is a ‘trip’ that takes in comedy asides, but in one spot-lit clubland karaoke performance it delivers an urgent message from a disenfranchised generation, which it would be foolish for anyone to ignore.

Whether the partisan crowd here absorbed that point might be debateable. At least one member of the audience remained locked on to her mobile for much of the performance, while several others seemed more intent on Shane’s idea of a good night out rather than anything too mind-worrying.

With Cartwright & Son facing a home crowd, it occasionally felt that this performance was playing to the gallery, and that Raz had lost a little of the razor sharpness that has already seen it lauded in Edinburgh and London.

It’s now on a regional tour and proves Cartwright senior has lost none of his ability to turn up the corners of modern life and imbue its characters with a poetic eloquence.

It’s worked in Road, Two and Little Voice and for 55 minutes here the language flows with a rhythmic and realistic beat.

Cartwright junior uses his chiselled stage charisma to full effect and inhabits Shane with unerring accuracy.

Faultless sound and light cues further enhance his performance, but don’t always seem to be used to full effect. And, for once, even The Lowry’s smaller stage seemed too large a space for such a contained and taut performance.

Reviewer: David Upton

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