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Forever 27 (Pride Fringe - Manchester)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Venue: Lass O'Gowrie
Where: Manchester

Having achieved nothing in his life Mark (Patrick Seymour) resolves to attain notoriety with his death. Suicide will put him in the company of celebs who died by the time they were 27. Strangely, deciding to end his life prompts Mark to make other decisions that he otherwise would have avoided – resulting in changes that might just make his life worth living.

Sarah Evans’s script is less about ending one’s life and more about the best way to live it. She unflinchingly explores options for suicide and the possible motives that might force one to realistically consider them. But the writer avoids a bleak play by bringing out more life-enhancing aspects with Mark considering the true meaning of ‘pride’ and taking hesitant steps towards a better life.

Director Tricia Etherington opens up a play that could have been static. She successfully stages scenes in nightclubs and on trains. But neither the writer nor director can provide an ending that works. The conclusion is undeniably powerful, even shocking, but the manner in which it is staged is unsatisfactory. With the principal character off-stage it feels like the audience has been denied the chance to say goodbye to someone for whom they have come to feel affection.

Patrick Seymour creates a vivid character. Suicide has the selfish aspect of dodging things that have become unbearable without regard for the impact upon those left to clean up the mess. Evans does not deny this unpleasant aspect of Mark’s character who is shown avoiding answering telephone appeals from his increasingly despondent mother. Seymour accepts this negative characteristic but gradually allows Mark to challenge his own weaknesses so that he becomes, if not a hero, at least someone who we can admire for trying. Seymour’s performance is so engaging that by the end of the play we are egging him on in his quest for a lover.

Forever 27 is a fine play with a great central performance. Pity about the dodgy ending.

- Dave Cunningham


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