New Century House, Manchester
This play has plenty to say. It is the third by Manchester Evening News award-nominated playwright Ian Moore who also directs his new work, written in the style of Chekhov. Moore says of his pieces: “I write to challenge and make the audience (and cast and crew) work.”
His work is certainly a challenge and you have to concentrate to make sense of it. But it is one of the most exciting productions I have seen in years.
Set in St Petersburg during the Kronstadt rebellion in 1921 it features 15 year old Milena who, when her guardian - an officer in the Bolshevik Army - asks her to meet someone at the station, becomes involved with White Mensheviks who attempt to blockade incoming trains.
The play then takes us to Milena aged 76, when suffering from dementia and having forgotten the intervening years, she returns to Krondstadt. How does it feel to metaphorically go to sleep as a young girl and wake up an old woman?
The cast of eight work well as a team and, as well as Iona Thonger as the young Milena and Joan McGee, the older one, I am impressed by the contribution of Marie Westcott as The Chicken Woman who loses her honour and her freedom because she fights for liberty.
The play crosses three distinct time periods: the 1890's, 1920's and 1980's, and although no doubt a testing piece for the costume designer, Siobhan Kerr appears to have been unfazed by the challenge.
The 24:7 Festival has been dubbed "the original 3D experience" and this description fits this play perfectly. It is like an action film with the occasional freeze frame and impressive sound effects provided, not only by Ben Watson whose train crash is a masterpiece, but also by the cast themselves who use choral speech to represent the hum of the engine.
It is not always comfortable. The play contains scenes of rape and violence whilst showing very little tenderness. Moments such as the comic duologue between Deborah Bouchard as the ticket collector and Murray Taylor as the down-to-earth engine driver help lift the tension.
The Inconsistent Whisper of Insanity stays with you long after you have left New Century House where all 24:7 Festival plays are now being staged.
- Julia Taylor