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Once In A House On Fire (Salford)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Such is the reputation of the original book that the premiere stage adaptation of Once In a House On Fire sold out before it opened and has had to schedule an extra performance on 11 April.

Andrea Ashworth’s award-winning memoir is a breathtakingly honest account of her experiences of domestic violence and financial hardship when growing up in inner city Manchester in the 1970s and 80s and locally-based Monkeywood Theatre (in development with The Lowry) has done a commendable job of transferring it to the stage.
The author’s experiences of back street life, with two younger sisters, a hopelessly self-destructive mother and two violent step-fathers are vividly captured, as is the stoicism and mutual support of the two elder girls.

Amidst all the deprivation and cruelty, the teenage Andrea seeks ways to escape through books and imagination and she wins out in the end, gaining a place at Oxford and going on to a new life…

Sarah McDonald Hughes as Andrea (she has also written the adaptation), Rachel Austin as sister Laurie and Francesca Waite as the mother, give highly-convincing performances and Thomas Aldersley and Ted Holden, as the step-fathers, are gut-wrenchingly nasty.
Director Martin Gibbons intersperses the live action with TV newsreel of the time which gives the piece context but tends to dissipate the tension rather too much and would be best used more sparingly.

Overall though, this a gripping story which is well told by a local theatre company.

- Alan Hulme


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