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Broken/Lot of it About (Tour - Salford)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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If there were to be an obvious link between these two new plays from Organised Chaos productions it would be a pretty damning representation of the medical profession, but other than that they strike very different tones.

Mental illness is a challenging topic to address without resorting to clichés and unfortunately Ella Carmen Greenhill’s Broken is no exception. May (Hannah Keeley) begins a friendship with the free spirited Carla (Emma Cliff), while also forming a relationship with the solid and protective Tom (Karl Greenwood).

May’s delusional interactions with the opposing personalities of Carla and Tom are interspersed by the observations of her psychologist/ doctor Helen (Una Love) who is worried that she has been given drugs instead of talking therapy.  Helen, who speaks like a textbook, has her own back-story and problems, which appear to be affecting her attitude towards her patient. Despite good performances from the cast and the serious subject matter, Broken is curiously unmoving. (3*)

In A lot of it About, writer Ned Hopkins illustrates the devastating impact of the sex aversion therapy of the 60s and 70s. A middle-aged Ben (played in this performance by producer Daniel Thackery) looks back on his life and his constant struggle with his sexuality.

Young Ben (Michael Whittaker) plays out the events of the past including the hideous electric shock treatment to ‘cure’ his sexuality and his marriage to Ann (Kate Mitchell as the younger and Tracy Gabbitas as the older Ann), while middle aged Ben watches and sometimes argues with himself over decisions he had made. That the two Bens are able to interact brings a further dimension. By also showing us two Anns, Hopkins ensures we know that two lives are affected by the treatment. Whittikaer has a strong stage presence and gives a sensitive performance as Ben.

With its quick and witty script, A lot of It About is a thoughtful piece of theatre. (4*)

- Joanna Ing

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