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Tall Tales, Tantrums and Gordon Brown (Manchester)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Since forming in 2007, the Library Theatre’s resident young actors company, Norfox has been creating original work in a collaborative environment. In the professional hands of writer/director Liz Postlethwaite, Tall Tales explores teenage angst, depressing politics and random near-death experiences.

The show opens with an explosive soundtrack but smacks more of the director’s taste rather than the average British teenager and the derivative steal from the Juno soundtrack is distracting rather than enhancing.

Alfie (Tom Anderson), our protagonist is an outsider in a school with naughty gangs, bitchy girls and everyone in between but with the election looming, he decides to throw a party to celebrate or commiserate in the vain hope his popularity may grow. New girl, Grace (Anna Harris) tries to befriend Alfie but the bitches get their claws in first.

There are some lovely scenes; the genuine awkwardness between Alfie and Grace in the playground is cringe worthy for anyone who’s ever tried, at that age, to ask someone out and the sad story at Alfie’s aborted party when he reveals to best pal, Max (Natalie Western), the reason for his obsession with near-death news stories. Only a hard heart would not be moved. There are also well choreographed ensemble pieces throughout which are confidently executed by the young cast.

There are times when the show feels like reverse TIE for adults, with the writer highlighting how it feels to be young in a country on its knees. Alfie’s best pal, Max (Natalie Western), explains she can’t comment about politics because she isn’t well informed then instantaneously gives a rousing speech about how they can change the world; the future’s about them.

Being a teenager sucks, everyone who’s been one knows that and the tricksy, over sentimentality of some of the story is more soap-opera than truth-telling. To her credit, Postlethwaite’s direction and pacing are beautifully crafted and there are solid performances by the cast members – notably Anderson and Western but overwritten scenes with too much explanation and very little content feels like a sadly missed opportunity.

- Lucia Cox


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