Happystorm Theatre Company have brought their co-founder Susi Wrenshaw's new play to the depths of Salford.
The plot is initially somewhat confusing. Ray and Martha are a mature couple: Ray seems to be the caring husband, and Martha to be confused and mentally ill after accidentally smothering their child some twenty years earlier. Ray is also upset as he has just found out that his mother, from whom he is estranged, has died.
However, as the plot unfolds, it becomes clear that Ray is not the caring soul he first seemed; instead cruelly controlling Martha by feeding her grief and confusion, thus ensuring she cannot leave him. In the the meantime we find that their daughter Willow is alive and well, having been living with Ray's mother for the last twenty years.
Russell Kennedy as Ray switches between different voices and physical personae to create the characters that he uses to control Martha, and to attempt to control his daughter. Any sympathy initially felt for the character is soon forgotten as his manipulative side comes to the fore.
Martha (Jacqueline Redgewell) is obviously distressed and at times manic. But Redgewell nicely portrays a woman who has been pushed into psychosis, making her fully rounded as a result.
Amy Spencer plays Willow's best friend, Leah. This character is a ditzy blonde with an astounding level of naivety, she nevertheless has a good heart and natural insight which aids Willow's understanding of what has happened. Spencer also uses her natural comedy talent to great effect to make her an immensely likeable person.
Susi Wrenshaw as both writer and the actor shows immense versatility. Her Willow is beautifully understated, allowing the emotions she shows to have more impact. She has also created a finely scripted and well observed piece of modern theatre.
Matthew Ganley directs with an assured feel, belying the fact that this is his professional directorial début. He also composed the music, proving himself as the other multi-talented co-founder of the company. However I felt that the final scene was unnecessary: the previous scene where Willow finds her mother forms a natural end.
Happystorm are committed to bringing new writing and dynamic theatre to Salford and beyond. Given the strength of this production, they have delivered what they promise and therefore are a company to watch out for.