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Love and Other Calculations (Manchester)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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VADA is a community theatre encouraging the involvement of people who identify as LGBTQ. Their current production, Love and Other Calculations, celebrates LGBT history month by exploring the themes of science, maths and engineering.

You can’t expect professional polish in a community theatre production but VADA’s show has fundamental weaknesses. The writers of the eight short pieces struggle with exposition and make their points clumsily- setting out plot developments in speeches rather than showing them on stage. The acting is declamatory in style and looks exaggerated in the intimate space. Artistic director Stephen M Hornby makes excellent use of filmed backgrounds to set the scenes for the plays but fails to help the writers appreciate how to build to a climax so some of the plays end inconclusively.

The performers become more relaxed as the evening progresses; Damian McHugh and Richard Brady achieve a moving relationship in the latter’s The Last Session. Hornby gives Howard Totty’s innuendo-laced Some Thoughts on Calculating a suitably saucy 'Carry On style.'

Love and Other Calculations is very ambitious; Hornby’s own A Georgian Physician sets out a dom/sub relationship between Lord Bryon and his doctor feelgood personal physician although the leisurely pace mutes the impact. The Company show the scope of their abilities with a short film on the use of plain clothes policemen to entrap gay men. The technical achievements are, however, let down by a heavy-handed approach to the subject. Although the plot is derivative Rosie Hutchinson’s Brainwaves has a gentle, moving humour and she even manages a decent ending.

Love and Other Calculations is an ambitious series of plays whose objective is not just to entertain but also to promote involvement amongst people who may feel themselves to be alienated. But, unintentionally, it demonstrates that, with community theatre, it is often more fun to take part than to watch.

- Dave Cunningham     


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