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Somebody's Son (Salford)

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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Venue: The Lowry
Where: Salford

A trio of disaffected teenage boys spend their time mocking formal education and planning a career as musicians.The mutual attraction between the aggressive Darnell (Anton Forrester) and the restrained Rochelle (Leonie Elliott) forces single mother Jenny (Debra Stewart) to take action before a shocking secret is revealed.
Somebody’s Son is described as suitable for audiences aged 13+. It is possible that the need to cater for a young audience prompted writer Marcia Layne to tone down aspects of the script for fear of causing offence. Although the procedure of an abortion is described there are no subsequent psychological problems so the whole thing seems antiseptic. The result is a tame cautionary tale on the consequences of unwanted pregnancy. It is set in an unrealistic inner city estate. Drugs do not seem to be a problem, no one swears and a policeman can be slapped without reprisal.
The writer might have hoped that a young audience would miss the gaping plot holes. This is a group of potential musicians who never write songs or rehearse. Whilst a racist policeman is a credible character the possibility of him publicly campaigning on behalf of a far-right group is not.
The lack of focus in the script is matched by Amanda Huxtable’s leisurely direction. There is a distinct lack of drama or any sense of threat as scenes develop at a plodding pace. The occasional stylish touch, such as a neat time-reversal, feels bolted on.
Inevitably the performances are affected by the lack of inspiration. Despite their commitment the younger male members of the cast are not well served being expected to fulfil stereotypical roles. Forrester is the angry male, Christopher Parkinson the class clown and Samira Arhin-Acquaah the bright boy whose progress is limited by a chip on his shoulder. Yet despite playing problem children the cast are not given the material or direction that would enable them to convey the ignorance and insecurity that underlies young male aggression.
The naturalistic performances of Leonie Elliott and Jane Crawshaw convince that Rochelle and Angel are friends and the actors are able to provide some much-needed light relief. The highlight is their miming to Beyonce's "Single Ladies" - very much the brash teens on the pull.
Despite the best efforts of a committed cast Somebody’s Son remains an unsatisfactory experience.
- Dave Cunningham

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