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Crocodiles (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester)

Elise Gallagher is entertained by the darkly comic Crocodiles, but finds that it goes too far off course for comfort.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Lee Mattinson's Crocodiles is set in a sleepy seaside town featuring the Glass family. Cornelia (Melanie Hill) is an overbearing Mother who predominantly spends her time spinning yarn – both literally and metaphorically with the frightening tales so uses to in an attempt to keep her sons at home with her.

Royal Exchange Theatre production of CROCODILES by Lee Mattinson. Directed by Ng Choon Ping. Cast: Melanie Hill, James Atherton, Kevin Wathen, Sarah Gordy.
©Jonathan Keenan

Her younger son Vincent (James Atherton) has returned home after mysteriously leaving his television job in the big city. Her eldest son Rudolph (Kevin Wathen) is a drunk who is being forced to give up his Punch and Judy show, whilst his wife Matilda (Sarah Gordy) balances writing with looking after their physic daughter Lucy.

This dystopian setting projects a family falling apart through a number of issues. However, despite the depressing connotations the previous sentence exudes the play is predominantly upbeat. The complex and arguably somewhat spontaneous plot twists are punctuated by upbeat song/dance sequences. A particular favourite of mine being the entire cast performing Buck Fizz's "Making Your Mind Up" complete with bright outfits and descending microphones.

For me the situations that the characters found themselves in were so out of context that it feels as if they were plucked from thin air. The surreal being matched with the spontaneous makes the audience feel slightly overwhelmed.

It came across at times that even the cast members couldn't keep track of the pace and gave a slightly clumsy performance. However one plot twist in particular, when revealed, had half the audience hooting with laughter whilst the other half were just as stunned and confused as Vincent. Though I must add that all cast members supported one another brilliantly, the chemistry illustrated incredibly well between Hill and Gordy.

The extreme fluctuation within the narrative meant that as an audience member you find it difficult to truly attach yourself to a character. Though it can be argued that this is what makes the play unique in comparison to many others. For me, Atherton and Hill shine. Their performances are convincing despite the ever-alternating tone of the narrative, stapling the play.

The studio setting works wonderfully. If the piece was performed on stage it would have distanced the audience even further away from the narrative amplifying the surreal as opposed to the performances.

Crocodiles is dark, funny and off the wall and ultimately enjoyable. It's just a shame that at times, it goes too far off course, leaving some audience members confused.

Crocodiles continues at the Royal exchange Studio until 18 October.