My Space (Manchester)
Louise Monaghan's play runs at 2022NQ as part of the 24:7 Festival
My Space has a hell of an opening. Lee (George Oluyinka) bursts onto the stage literally bouncing off the walls in a breathless display of parkour. Sophie Tolan, Lauren Ogden and Kamaran Darabi-Ford follow on rollerblades and skateboard. It is hard, however, to link this energetic start to the more sedate play that follows.
As punishment for petty larceny the four teens are sentenced to tend the garden of ‘Mad Harry' (Kenneth Alan Taylor). This gives to conflict as Harry is a racist and Lee is black.
Louise Monaghan's script is not so much gentle as undemanding and has an old-fashioned feel that brings to mind Goodnight Mister Tom. The offence committed by the teens is more like apple scrumping than the terrifying anti-social behaviour so common nowadays. They are very clean living teens showing no interest in drugs, alcohol or rock and roll. Sex is presumably out of the question.
A talented young cast welcome the opportunity to show their versatility. Oluyinka and Tolan excel doubling as younger versions of Harry and his wife.
Although the play has a rural setting the bare concrete floor and shabby tiled walls of the venue coupled with set designer Kaylie Joy Black's use of crates and cardboard boxes as props suggests the wartime privation endured by Harry.
Director Louise Hill does not develop any sense of generational or any other kind of conflict. Everyone seems fundamentally decent and their limited differences simply fade. The play is an uneasy mix of Harry's yearning for his late wife and the teens struggling to decide how best to respond to his provocative behaviour. Little effort is made to clarify the motivation of the characters. Harry's racism is taken as typical for his generation and it is very hard to comprehend Lee's toleration of the abuse. It is difficult also to identify the focal point and a sudden shift from Lee to Harry results in an inconclusive ending.
My Space is curiously under-developed and it is hard to determine its intended audience.
- Dave Cunningham