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The Waiting Line

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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SandBar, Manchester

The 'Not Part Of' Festival is Manchester International Festival's errant teenage sibling; edgier, naughtier and probably with a very bad taste in men, and continuing in this vein, The Waiting Line doesn't disappoint.

The play begins with two strangers meeting on a train; Prog, a war veteran facing eviction from his temporary home, and 'Laura' apparently returning from her job as an animal shelter volunteer. Revealing a little more of themselves with each encounter, the unlikely pair are thrust together on a turbulent journey of self discovery, with tragic results.

The stage, bare except for the two characters and a couple of old train benches, could easily lose its appeal during this hour-long piece, but the quality of the performances and the increasing intensity of the action keep us engaged throughout. Despite the odd intrusive guffaw overheard from the bar downstairs, the compact performance space lends itself to the story well, forcing the audience to hitchhike along on the journey, whether they like it or not. As with the set, costume and lighting changes are minimal, but representative; heightening the play's conclusion where we see Paige literally bathed in a different light.

Prog (Lawrence Ghorra) is unexpectedly witty, adding a new dimension to the stereotypical hobo type character, and when he finally makes 'Laura' smile, we laugh with them. Lisa Brookes comes into her own as she degenerates from the meek and reserved 'Laura' to the openly emotional Paige. The writing (Anna Baatz) is clever; the dialogue comes across as genuine, but frequently takes surprising turns, and carries a subtle irony as Paige, rebuffing Prog's religious declarations, ends up confessing her own sins to him.

This is a play that everyone can identify with, exploring the pain we all carry in varying degrees, the trials and tribulations both outside of our influence and those of our own making. Watch The Waiting Line and, next time a stranger tries to catch your eye on the tram, you'll think twice before you turn up your ipod and look the other way.

- Poppy Helm


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