Rock Paper Scissors

Chris Bush
Sheffield Theatres
Crucible and Sheffield Lyceum

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Denise Black (Susie) in Paper Credit: Johan Persson
Jabez Sykes (Mason) in Scissors Credit: Johan Persson
Chanel Waddock (Coco) Daisy May (Molly) in Rock Credit: Johan Persson

Sheffield Theatres has come up with a startling, challenging, outrageous idea to celebrate the Crucible’s 50th year anniversary. For the next two weeks, audiences will be able to see ‘three theatres, three plays, ONE cast—all at the same time’.

After much deliberation, Artistic Director Rob Hastie and award-winning playwright Chris Bush conceived the idea of three plays being performed simultaneously, exploring the same situation from different perspectives with members of the albeit large cast moving from one venue to another as their character left one scene and entered another.

The action of the three plays takes place in three working spaces in a nearly defunct Sheffield Scissors factory which has been turning out handcrafted scissors and shears for two recent generations of the same family and for some time before that. Eddie Spenser has just died, so his sister Susie, his adopted stepdaughter Faye and the current factory manager Omar have expectations that they may inherit the property. But which one will inherit and what are their plans for the development of the business or site?

The plays are complex and raise a wide range of issues about "intergenerational conflict, about heritage, about autonomy" and the relationship between time past, time present and time future.

Each of the supposed legatees is surrounded by an important group of secondary characters. In her youth, Susie was a successful pop singer who never quite made it to the top. She was passed over by her father when he left the business to her brother Eddie, thinking that a woman would be incapable of running it. Susie’s dream for the future is to transform the existing site into a huge performance venue for popular music like the Factory. On the day of the action, she anticipates meeting a music photographer Billy who will photograph pop act performers Coco and Molly for publicity purposes.

Stepdaughter Faye has arrived with her dominant partner Mel with whom she has two children. Mel has summoned Xander, a corporate design consultant, with a view to selling the site for urban development which will provide an income for their growing family. There is conflict between the two women as Faye has childhood memories of the factory and is not happy with this suggested outcome.

Factory manager Omar is supported by his daughter Zara. Omar has left behind a lucrative career as a metals analyst at Canary Wharf in order to devote himself to a business that values the production of handcrafted objects. Zara is studying for a PhD and would not be interested in inheriting the dying business. Through Omar, we also meet a lively group of 18-year-old apprentices who are working for a minimum wage to learn a craft that will offer them no future.

We see the group of apprentices in their work space assembling scissors and testing their effectiveness. Their work is not good because they are at the beginning of their apprenticeship and their attitudes range from memories of family members who were exploited in earlier days to wild imaginings of taking over the business themselves. Mason (Jabez Sykes), who has flitted briefly through other scenes, is a watchman and savant with a commitment to conservation who values creating objects that will possibly outlive him.

The text of the play engages with issues of current relevance to Sheffield but also has universal significance. The characters are well-drawn and excellently realised by the actors. The script is full of wit and offers opportunities for comic characterisation and exciting sequences, imaginatively staged, of rock performance and folk song.

Denise Black gives a powerful performance in the important role of Susie, Leo Wan is entertaining as Xander, Natalie Casey (Mel) and Samantha Power (Faye) unfold the complexities of their lesbian relationship, Daisy May and Chanel Waddock are great fun as the posing, superficial pop duo, and the group of apprentices give a brilliant and highly energetic mock version of a concert performance.

Much credit must go to the creatives and the three stage management teams attached to the productions who enabled actors running from one venue to the next to get there in time and give flawless, uninterrupted performances.

This is a one-off theatrical event which must be experienced. Many congratulations to everyone involved and Happy Anniversary, Crucible.

Reviewer: Velda Harris