Contact Theatre, Manchester
Whilst other theatres undertake their traditional dark month of August, Contact have emerged once again with pioneering individuality and opened the doors of their informal Lounge space to host Contact Compacts.
This features two nights of new writing from emerging local talent. Part of Loungefest — a new free two week festival designed to showcase the social and creative space of the building during the summer — the event provides opportunities for the North West's most exciting playwrights, poets and musicians to debut their work.
It goes without saying that this is a remarkably popular event for writers and actors alike with six short plays performed to a full house. The first of which The Welcome Party marched onto the stage to set the high standard for the evening. Writer Matthew Smith explores complex themes of mental instability from a disconnected jazz band rehearsal room.
The dialogue is fast-paced and concise, the actors are likeable and Smith is careful not to trivialise the delicate theme with his engaging comedic style as he refers to Louisa's nervous breakdown as an ‘accumulated social fracture'. Second on the bill is Sex Therapy a delightfully hysterical repartee of dysfunctional marital banter between Fanny (Gracie Kelly) and Dick (Chris Brett) whose thoroughly enjoyable performances lead into the first interval of the evening.
After a brief interlude Louise M North's Walking and Ruth Hartnoll's Sub/Dom take to the stage but lack the conviction of the opening two works and fail to maintain momentum, despite an intensely engaging performance by Emma Obita in the role of Walking's Younger Woman.
But it is Lucia Cox (writer of Manchester Theatre Nominated one-woman show Blackbird) who steals the show with her captivating piece How To Tell The Truth. Directed by Megan Marie Griffith, who co-founded the production team behind the festival, the play is a series of monologues that explores our approach to relationships fuelled by selfish desire and social conform. Kimberly Hart-Simpson is outstanding in the lead role with flawless precision and impeccable timing. Richard Berry's My, Robot brings the evening to a close on a disappointedly flat note.
Contact's dedication to creative risk taking continues to provide a platform to cultivate the artistic abilities of North West home-grown talent. The simple sets, small casts and intimate yet informal audience space has culminated in an impressive new weapon to add to Contact's arsenal of innovative, experimental theatre.
- Sarah Bloomer