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Blunted (Manchester)

Alice Brockway's play runs at New Century House as part of the 24:7 Festival

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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In the aftermath of a traumatic experience Tess (Alice Brockway who wrote the play) sinks into depression. Well-intentioned friends Evey (Lowri Vivian) and Jay (John Mulleady) ignore her wish for isolation and try to nudge her towards recovery. Then events arise that drag Tess out of her protective shell.

Blunted addresses powerful issues in an admirably unflinching manner but the unremittingly harrowing depiction can be hard to take. There is a growing sense of impotence; that societal problems are no longer resolvable and the only viable option is to withdraw. The idealism of Tess compelled her to help the very people who later ruined her life and a vicious circle arises as Tess now feels unable to continue her altruistic activities so making the world even bleaker.

Helen Parry's naturalistic direction rams home the relentlessly grim worldview. We are spared none of Tess's howling grief and there is the impression that she has not come to terms with her loss but learned to despise those she once helped. This is an honest interpretation but, taken in context with other factors, makes the play something of an endurance course.

As Evey is a ‘best friend' it is inevitable she has some character quirks. Unfortunately Brockway's script gives her a motormouth that adds to the high emotional pitch of the play. At times it feels like ‘Sex in the City' turned up to 11. The inclusion of Glenn (Andrew Fillis) is welcome not just as a symbol of decency but also because Fillis's understated delivery is a simple relief from all the shouting.

The performances are all very well judged but Brockway carries the emotional impact. Brockway's performance is not so much intense as deeply personal so at times it feels like you are embarrassingly intruding on intimate moments.

Blunted pulls no punches in its depiction of modern society and it is hard to disagree with the picture it paints. Audiences may find, however, that the sheer emotional overload leaves them feeling drained rather than moved.

- Dave Cunningham


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