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To Break A Man (Tour - Salford)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Tarry Theatre's Artistic Director Jade Blue takes centre stage in this piece, inspired by a scene in a Paul Auster novel, and developed by her and director George Dillon.

The basic plot revolves around a young girl, Flora, who is waiting for her father to visit. As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that the eighteen year old is currently in a mental hospital, and has been for some years. She is naturally brilliant but obsessive about numbers, facts and dice. Her father has been in prison for fraud but today is the day of his release.

The show jumps between Flora spouting facts and figures directly to the audience and her portrayal of the five major characters involved in her life: her father, an ordinary man who loves his daughter; her mother, the selfish daughter of a rich man; her grandfather who states he wants what's best for Flora but only serves his own purpose; her aunt, who at least is more affectionate then her own mother and Jack, her father's best friend.

Blue assumes the role of each character in turn as she reveals more about her life. She moves between characters with a smooth efficiency: each role has its own specific physical characteristics and manner of speech. After each character's monologue she then reverts to the more upright Flora. So much of what the protagonist says depends on the roll of her dice and what she perceives as the meaning of the two numbers she sees.

She makes the audience uncertain as to whether they are actually influencing events in the play. It is impossible to see if she really is rolling the numbers she says she is. She also deals out cards which represent the different people in her life and then asks the audience to decide where she stops, then tells the story of that person's visit to her earlier that day.

In the end, it is time for her father to visit, but he comes with a terrible decision to make. Should he renew his relationship with his beloved daughter; or should he bow to the machinations of his ex-father-in-law and walk out of her life forever, but with the knowledge that her care in the hospital will be paid for by her grandfather for a long as necessary?

Dillon and Blue have created a stunning piece of theatre, which provokes without undermining the audience's perceptions. It is well worth seeing if it returns to the north west again.

- Helen Jones


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