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Some Voices (Manchester)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Venue: John Thaw Studio
Where: Manchester

Blackhand productions bring to life Joe Penhall’s Some Voices first seen at the Royal Court Theatre, Upstairs in 1994.  Telling the tale of Ray (James Jowett), a schizophrenic now living in the community with his estranged brother, Pete (Andrew Roberts-Palmer) in Shepards Bush. 

Instantly rebelling against his care package and refusing to take his medication, Ray’s empty days with little to do soon become filled with a new relationship with Laura (Charlotte Dalton) who is in an abusive relationship with Dave (John Pank) and is pregnant with his child. Besotted with Laura, Ray attempts to assimilate in to her life and his failure to address his mental health issues soon means his old thoughts and feelings and lack of control returns with interesting results.

Jowett’s Ray launches in to some wonderful machine gun fire style monologues that are amusing yet laced with pathos and show well how isolating schizophrenia can be. Only feeling like he can trust his friend Ives (Terry Naylor) from their time in a psychiatric unit together, Ray struggles to find a routine and a place in real world despite his attempts to chat to people, to make new friends and find a purpose in life. However it is Roberts-Palmer’s exasperation and determination as Ray’s brother that steals the show. Attempting to hold everything together and support his brother causes him personal grief and trauma yet he continues to be a constant in Ray’s life.

The thing that lets this production down is the insistence on fading to black between each and every scene, sometimes for longish periods that allows the audience to start getting a little restless and affects the ebb and flow of the piece. Nothing is left to the audience’s imagination, even going so far as to lay down a piece of astroturf to signify the action is in a field which had already been conveyed through the dialogue. Allowing the audience to create the imagery for themselves at times would not go amiss and would prevent the need to excessive pauses between scenes as it does little to add to the drama and in fact takes away some of the edginess of the piece. 

Coverage and knowledge of schizophrenia has improved to some degree since the play’s conception and some of it’s more shocking elements lack the ferocity they may have once had as coverage of the topic has been done through TV and other mediums in more recent times, detracting a little from the shock and awe aspect of the piece but this is still entertaining drama that is performed well in a studio setting.  

-  Ruth Lovett


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