As host to a large number of fringe productions over the last 10 years, Taurus Bar plays a very valuable role in Manchester’s theatre scene. On this occasion their bar downstairs serves as an ideal playing space for Out! by Vertigo Theatre Productions, running until Sat 12 June.
Out! tells the story of a close-knit group of friends who are coming to terms with the death of one of their clan. The play runs over the year that follows as we watch the characters feel the effects of his loss affecting their lives and leading them to question their loves, lifestyles and friendships. Having previously lived for the weekends, the group are now forced to grow up and face their own mortalities.
Written, directed and performed by Craig Hepworth, the central story seems like a personal one of a group of friends searching for their identities, as well as the loves of their lives, in Manchester. The characters wear their hearts on their sleeves; however the dialogue sometimes tends towards over-exposition and self-indulgence, with several scenes that feel like there is a lot being said but not a great deal happening.
The play is structured with short scenes like a TV drama or sitcom, and comes across like a hybrid of Friends and This Life with a twist of Queer as Folk thrown in. At two hours the production feels long and repetitive, which is not helped by some drawn out scene changes in need of smoother choreography and possibly the addition of music. The song that was used to end the first Act came from out of the blue and, though well performed, jarred against the already established production style.
The 7-strong cast move the story along, with notable performances from Richard Allen, playing the leading role of Lee naturally and with understated maturity. Dale Vicker, as the endearing James, gets many well-deserved laughs, doing justice to some cracking one-liners.
Out! shows a fondness for it’s home in Canal Street and was certainly enjoyed by the audience on the night I attended, as they seemed to connect to the story and its characters.
- Francesca Waite