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Cell (Re-Play Manchester)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Imagine how you would feel if you were the mother of a grown-up son who is so psychologically damaged that he locks himself in his bedroom and won’t come out despite your pleas. Also when you deliver his meals and take away his excretions, he doesn’t even speak to you. This is the situation which faces mammy in Cell, a beautifully written short play by Irish writer and composer Ailis Ni Riain.

Aisling Leyne, who plays mammy, conveys the anxiety and sadness which overwhelm her character but her appearances are few and serve to break up the virtual monologue delivered by the main character, Gareth Cassidy as her son, Hickey.
He makes contact with the outside world via internet chat rooms. When he doesn’t like what he sees on message boards, he turns to his imaginative, and argumentative larger than life, alter-ego, Mickey (Michael Ryan).

There are times when Mickey doesn’t have to speak and you sense that he feels slightly uncomfortable sitting around twiddling his thumbs. When the actor does let forth in a strong Irish accent, sometimes difficult for English ears to decipher, he makes the perfect sounding board for Hickey’s pent-up anger.

The director, Paula Simms, ensures that good use is made of music, some of which is the writer’s own work, to create atmosphere. Qually impressive are all of the sound effects, especially when channels on the TV are changed or the computer alerts and sometimes awakens, Hickey. I believe these are created in-house – so well done Paul Gregory.

One wonders though if this play could be made even better by increasing its length. This would give time, perhaps via flashbacks, to explain why Hickey is the way he is. As it is, the audience do not spend enough time with him, so therefore it is difficult to completely engage.

If an outsider were somehow to break into his world and entice him out of his self-imposed imprisonment, there could be a happy ending. But, in today’s world, happy endings are the things dreams are made of.

Cell is one of a select few plays previously presented in Manchester and Salford’s non-traditional theatre venues, to be shown again in the Library Theatre’s third annual Re:Play Festival and it's worth seeing.

- Julia Taylor


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