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Kellerman (Tour - Salford)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Venue: The Lowry

Institutionalised following a suicide attempt Harry Kellerman is disturbed when doctors claim that there is no proof that his family ever existed. This feels like the start of a classic thriller but instead authors Andrew Quick and Pete Brooks (with contributions from the Imitating the Dog Company) surprise us by delivering a science fiction drama. Kellerman is a mathematician so brilliant as to have created a formula that will allow time travel. He intends, therefore, to go back to the point where his family vanished and reverse the process.
Kellerman illustrates the paradoxes of time travel with one character being familiar with another who claims they have yet to meet. Deeper themes have, however, already been explored by other writers. Kurt Vonnegut Junior argued  the concept showed that all actions were pre-determined and, hence, that free will was a illusion. There is nothing as challenging here. Although the storytelling technique is at times dazzling the script is frustratingly vague. Although it is fun to watch the interaction between them it is hard to understand how characters other than Kellerman can time travel.
Clarity is not helped by a sub-plot set in an alternative reality with civilisation on the brink of an apocalypse.The resolution of this sub-plot gives a glimmer of hope but we have to endure some awkward dialogue used to demonstrate the change in reality.
Considering that Kellerman concerns a quest for love the play is emotionally barren, none of the characters are sufficiently well- developed to stimulate any sympathy nor to make us care whether or not the protagonist succeeds in his efforts.
This is, however, a play worth seeing for some imaginative staging which adds much-needed atmosphere to the show. The set, designed by Laura Hopkins, is split-level which allows the alternative realities to be shown at the same time. This is helped by the use of simple black cut-outs. As well as facilitating rapid scene changes this is used to obscure parts of the actors' bodies giving the show the feel of a nightmare populated by anonymous characters.

Time travel is suggested by Kellerman bumping into another inmate and the two revolving at speed into the past. As the platform upon which they rotate is hidden the illusion is perfect.
The thoughts and fantasies of the characters are shown as realistic but slightly exaggerated cartoon representations projected onto a rear screen. The set allows almost cinematic views letting us see the actors from above or follow them down twisting corridors.
It is a shame that the imagination and style showed in staging Kellerman could not have been matched in the script. As it is, we have a  production that does not fulfil its considerable potential.
-Dave Cunningham


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