Queer up North is about to begin and the perfect way to launch is with the Pre-festival trailblazer, Susan & Darren. Quarantine and Company Fierce bring the show back to Manchester, updated and perfectly tailored to suit its new surroundings at Sachas Hotel.
Susan and Darren are mother and son. She is fifty-five and he is thirty. Darren lives at home with Susan in the house he grew up in and they share a bond so close that its heart warming. We are invited to join them and get to know them as they take us through little intimate moments of their lives, whether that be sharing stories of growing up, revealing heartbreaking accounts of their past or simply dancing the night away, and boy do they like to dance. With Darren being a dancer he’s always eager to show us what he can do.
Susan & Darren is hard to put in to words, as it’s an event more than a play. Naturalistic in approach and raw in its delivery, you are essentially watching a real mother and son lay their lives out bare. In this brief 90 minutes they allow us to take part in their lives and you come away feeling like you have known them forever.
It's almost as if they lived next door to you, you even feel like you know the rest of the audience as we are all there to find out a little bit more about this mother and son and the enthusiasm and passion from the cast is infectious.
The night almost feels like it has no structure but that’s what makes the show truly special, one moment you are watching them try and fight for the audience’s attention, the next moment you are moved to tears before they get their groove on again.
Susan and Darren are utterly compelling people, and this is a fascinating look at two individuals that have been touched by the most horrid of events but found fun and beauty in so much of their lives.
Not all aspects of the show are perfect, though. The video screens with stories from friends and neighbours really does not add anything new and sometimes the production really would benefit from more character development. But these are just minor grumbles. At 90 minutes, with a buffet and disco thrown in, this really is a little gem of a show.
Yes, an evening with Susan & Darren is truly a night to remember.
- Craig Hepworth
Reviewed at Sacha's Hotel, Tibb Street, Manchester