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Hidden (Manchester)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Venue: Joshua Brooks
Where: Manchester

The latest production from Black Toffee concerns people who prefer to keep certain things Hidden. Jamie’s outwardly cheerful chubby exterior conceals a morbid obsession with her weight. Colin knows that his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is reaching the point at which he might lose control and is unsure whether he fears or welcomes the potential outcome.

Nina is able to make a rational assessment of her possible pregnancy. James is tempted by erotic possibilities to violate the protocol of commuting. Claire’s isolated existence and desperate search for company hides the backbone of steel that enabled her to leave an abusive partner.
Writers/performers Peter Carruthers and Laura Lindsay skilfully dodge the pitfalls that could damage their imaginative and moving play. The script is crammed with lines that are so witty there is a risk that the show will degenerate into observational stand-up. Carruthers and Lindsay, however, ensure that the script reflects the character so that Jamie uses humour as a defence mechanism.

The excellent quality of the acting is such that there is always a link to the humanity that lies beneath the jokes. Even so the writers are not ashamed to include basic gags, which is fine when they are of the quality of the chap who is irresistibly drawn to phallic food.   
The writers use a range of techniques to ensure variety and suspense. Although essentially a series of monologues the show remains a theatrical experience. Characters who appeared in an early part of the show return in later scenes to converse with others. This foreshadowing, with the audience tantalisingly aware of facts of which the characters are ignorant, increases the tension. The character of Colin is the only point at which the writers seem unsure – unable to decide whether his condition is to be played for laughs or foreboding.
Hidden is a show in which the whole is much more than just the sum of its parts. All of the contributions merge together to create an irresistible play demonstrating that quality theatre can be achieved with minimal resources as long as there is maximum talent.   

- Dave Cunningham


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