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Road Movie (Manchester)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Starving Artists have been commissioned to re-present their award-winning play Road Movie by Godfrey Hamilton as part of Queer up North’s 18th birthday celebrations. The play originally premiered in 1995 at the Edinburgh Festival and won a Fringe First and Stage Award.

The company title suggests a large cast but there is only one actor – Mark Pinkosh and he delivers a compelling performance, as proven by his Manchester Evening News Theatre Award for his performance in this well crafted play.

The writer’s descriptions of an indigo and deep purple desert or  time that runs like hot butter make good listening and draw you into the play through this beautiful language. Pinkosh movingly performs the lead character, Joel, who endures a long journey across the United States to be reunited with his male lover, Scott.

The play is set in the mid-90s when America's enduring AIDS crisis was blamed on homosexuals. This is still timely, as even though there is more treatment available, there are still over 33 million people world wide living with HIV.

Joel meets Scott after being pulled out of a gutter, knocked out by drink.He soon discovers he can’t live without him so sets out to find him. It's no wonder Pinkosh won an award, for it takes great skill to play three women and two men and to master conversations between them. This talented performer not only changes his accent and pitch, he also makes good use of hand and body movement as well as facial expression.

We meets most of the characters on his long journey. One, a woman, whose son has died from Aids, tries to joke about it.  Another, a Texan mother who lost her daughter to an overdose, is desperate to understand why. A couple searching for their son’s name on the Vietnam memorial, become real as Joel confides his feelings on watching them.  He compares the loss of his friends from Aids to the lost servicemen of Vietnam. Each one is a fighter.

Pinkosh builds a picture of Scott, as a kind, thoughtful man and even as you head towards the poignant denouement, this description holds true.

This small and intimate play had a huge story to tell and it is well directed by Jonathan Best. The only flaw is that more use could have been made of the video backdrop. If traffic scenes and the lights of buildings had been shown, the actor would not have looked quite so small on a big stage.

But, even so, this gripping play puts the spotlight on a topic which has all but disappeared from our newspaper headlines, and for that alone, it needs to be applauded. Mark Pinkosh brings light and shade to the characters, lifting them beyond mere stereotypes and the end result is gripping. 

- Julia Taylor


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