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Hidden (re:play - Salford)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Hidden, as the title suggests, concerns things that people would rather conceal. It is written and performed by Laura Lindsay and Peter Carruthers with an assist from director and dramaturg Martin Jameson. The play comprises half a dozen interlinked short pieces featuring characters becoming aware of aspects of themselves they have previously been oblivious or have secrets they wish to hide.

The subjects are wide and fascinating and all handled with rare comic skill and insight. Colin’s obsessive-compulsive disorder begins to slip frighteningly into a death wish. Gareth’s growing awareness of his true sexual nature leads to a cringingly embarrassing conversation and a heartbreaking conclusion. Claire, a cheerful supermarket worker who is desperate for a simple shag, almost casually reveals a past of domestic abuse.

Hidden has no aspirations to be high art but this does not indicate a lack of ambition. There is real emotional power in watching James’s mischievous flirtation blossom into a full-blown and screamingly funny fantasy before crashing against brutal reality. The sequence involving Gareth’s attempt to come out to his roommate is a marvellous comedy of manners and embarrassment with Peter Carruthers showing impeccable timing. The only tale that feels bolted onto the narrative is Cara’s story of attempting to slim but you really don’t care as it is stuffed with unforgettable, if ribald, dialogue. Laura Lindsay explains Cara’s motive in joining a gym was that she was so fat she could no longer wipe her own arse - and there is only so much you can ask of your dad.     

Director Martin Jameson opens the show with a startling moment and subtly establishes the links between the stories by having characters referenced in earlier stories appear in later ones. The simple technique of setting up an apparently humorous situation and occasionally taking it in a darker direction works very well.

The only sequence that does not reach its full potential is the opening one where understated delivery fails to develop the necessary air of suspense.

- Dave Cunningham


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