Royal Exchange Studio, Manchester

Pages from my Songbook
Pages from my Songbook
© Alligator Club

Founded three years ago, The Alligator Club is a group of professional writers based in the North West whose aim is to provide a forum and produce shows. This latest offering is an original mix of music and drama, that doesn't always hit the spot but does so more often than not.

There are 18 short plays here, interlaced and underpinned by music from a quartet of performers, chiefly harpist Alice Kirwan and DJ Irfan Rainy.

The cast of six – Kelly Hotten, David Judge, Joshua Miles, Dan Parr, Paislie Reid and Susan Twist – are a great bunch and, directed by current Royal Exchange resident assistant director Holly Race Roughan, it is often the performances that carry the evening rather than the words, which vary more than somewhat in their appeal.

Writer Kim Wiltshire, with David Judge and Dan Parr as Max and Duane, are one particularly successful strand – meeting as under-age teenagers at a disco and becoming firm friends, and perhaps more, before a tragedy splits them.

Judge also has a very strong solo as Theo, by Becky Prestwich, in which a complex tale of tragic young love, a lost baby, drugs and prison, is scorched through in just a few minutes but makes a significant impact.

And Ghosts, by Lee Thompson, is the one piece where all the strands of the evening meld perfectly. Cue Ms Kirwan's harp and an excellent performance from Joshua Miles, as writer Lee Thompson provides a clever witty/sad story of a chap who can't stop hearing harp music and has to investigate why.

Designer Meriel Pym provides a happily relaxed setting, suggesting a tent at a music festival. Audience members brave enough to do so can sit on various exotic cushions scattered around the perimeter of the stage.

The programme tells me the performance has been rehearsed in just six days, which is pretty remarkable. The format is appealing and there's much talent involved. I suggest the best of what's here should be earmarked for future re-runs. With new work gradually added, the net result will be a very strong event indeed.

- Alan Hulme