Venue: Lass 'O'Gowrie
Where: Manchester

In Thinking Out Loud: An Affair to Remember writer/director Rebekah Harrison ambitiously tests the limits of the short play. That her efforts are not fully successful is due to the inflexibility of the format rather than the abilities of the writer. The wide range of themes covered by the plays and the switch between comedy and drama offers a refreshing level of contrasts and avoids duplication.

Some of the plays contain the key element of the classic short story – a twist ending. Of these Road to Hell is the most successful because the simple storytelling allows the stark plot to develop with the minimum of contrivance. I Want To Break Free works less well as the brevity of the format does not allow sufficient time to explore the complex interdependency that can develop between couples in abusive relationships so, although the twist is actually better, the play is less convincing. Harrison’s direction, allowing the mood of the plays to gradually darken, is excellent.  

One Moment in Time is a bittersweet tale of a mis-matched couple on a first blind date. Again the limited running time necessitates some plot devices that give an artificial edge but these are smoothed out by a pair of naturalistic performances from Vickie Gates and Darren Connolly; the latter being particularly fine as a hesitant widower.

Staying Alive shows the influence of Talking Heads, the pinnacle of short performance writing. This bleak May-December romance is essentially a monologue and Wendy Patterson’s perceptive interpretation brings a level of self-awareness that makes for a heartbreaking conclusion.

Harrison’s direction is less assured in Jailhouse Rock. Uncertainty about whether to present the play as a straightforward comedy or a comedy/drama blunts the potential humour. Jailbird Neil Ashton plans to use a meeting with a correspondent from the Salvation Army to gain absolution prior to suicide. But Hayley Showman gives us a marvelous comic character with a mind of her own who has used the correspondence for other purposes and whose brash entrance is a comedic highlight.

- Dave Cunningham