The Broadway Theatre presents to us two new plays as part of its Shamelessly Broadway week. I think it’s fairly safe to say that, in regards to my own personal taste, I am shamelessly biased towards the Broadway based as it is in my home borough of Barking and Dagenham.
For this reason I must confess my fleeting disappointment upon learning that the two plays in question, Airport and Doormen, were rooted in that rainy far off place we know as Manchester. For a theatre based in such a place as Barking, steeped in such a strong sense of cultural heritage and identity, I was a little surprised that these plays were not set a little closer to home.
And yet I needn’t have worried. The real strength in both of these productions is that they are performed in a space where their themes of social mobility and frustration resonate incredibly strongly. We get a real, almost tangible sense of injustice crossing geographical borders and appealing them to unite as one.
Written by up and coming writer and director Benjamin Lyon Ross, Airport follows the story of local boy Tom and middle class girlfriend Hazel. Their relationship soars and trembles from moment to moment, one can almost feel the ground crumbling from underneath them as their desperation becomes more and more apparent. This is beautifully played by David Butler and Jennifer Quinn in particular, capturing their journey from almost childlike naivety to world weary young adults in the space of a night. Airport has its flaws and side characters such as Hannah, with her constant comparisons to wealth and education, often feel a little undeveloped in comparison to the depth of the main characters and yet it maintains a rawness that is both touching and memorable.
Doormen is a significantly lighter exploration of Manchester life, our two doormen in question providing an extremely funny display of what is essentially two little boys with muscles. “This is our door!” they remind each other happily as kick and bully customers right and left. The dialogue is sharp and witty, and backed up by a subtle critique of the police’s behaviour compared to that of the bouncers.
Andy McHugh and Ciaran Griffiths are a delight in a piece that is both absurd and extremely funny. Shamelessly Broadway week therefore has great success in delivering two plays that are essentially two faces of the same coin, both convincing and extremely relevant.