Conor McKee
Conor McKee Productions
The Continental, Preston

Katie McArdle and Darren John Langford in Thrasher

Forget the ‘aspiration nation’; here instead are six characters hanging on to the margins of society, aspiring just to survive.

Their intersecting stories are the subject of this hard-boiled 90-minute drama by young Manchester-based playwright Conor McKee. It’s gradually developed out of an extract at that city’s Royal Exchange theatre back in 2006 and is now embarked on a nine-date national tour, directed by the highly-experienced Wyllie Longmore.

In a play with a beginning, a middle, and a beginning, there are bound to be some comparisons to Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde, but in his gritty characterisation and sometimes shocking language McKee manages to get beneath the skin of what might be regarded, at first, as stock modern-drama stereotypes.

There’s Vic (Justine Elizabeth Bailey) who freely understands her main commodity is her looks; Lee (Ryan Greaves) who can’t seem to even sell his drugs at a profit; Colin (Darren John Longford) used to taking what he wants; Chloe (Katie McArdle) taking whatever God might allow; Frank (Richard Sails) pining for intimacy; while Jenny (Lauren Thomas) recoils from the memory.

Living on their wits they are propped up by sex, drugs, faith, reminiscence and payday loans.

It’s all bleakly cynical, but nonetheless believable and engaging, and its writer, producer—and, on this night, programme seller as well—gifts several of his creations with some starkly realistic speeches, especially Vic’s shocking soliloquy to her make-up mirror.

The production may not necessarily have been seen at its best here, in the ersatz stage setting that is half of the floor of the ‘Conti’ theatre space, but it has slickly arranged lighting, and a detached kind of score from Michael Cretu that aids the necessary intimacy and atmosphere.

On this showing you would look forward to McKee’s subsequent work.

Reviewer: David Upton

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