Stan (Salford)

David Cunningham finds a funny, yet flawed show in the guise of ”Stan” at the King’s Arms.

© Loose Lips Theatre

Loose Lips Theatre is an all-female ensemble passionate about creating new theatre using a variety of techniques. Stan, their latest show, is a stylish demonstration of their commitment and imagination although the extent to which it could be considered a cohesive theatrical production rather than a collection of sketches is debatable.

The titular Stan has defined himself through postings on Facebook. Appropriately, therefore, when Stan vanishes the authorities attempt to trace him via social media but is soon becomes apparent that there are more rumours than facts about Stan.

Written by Karolyn Szejner and Sarah Turnbull (the latter, along with artistic director and choreographer Kadie Jo Green comprise the cast) Stan is observational comedy told from the viewpoint of a wide range of characters using a staggering range of highly imaginative techniques.

Impressively there is no sense of contrivance – of the company just applying routines to pad out the show – everything flows together without strain. The show opens with a monologue in blank verse before moving on to conversations, mime and even song and dance numbers. Stan is nothing if not varied.

Much of the humour is drawn from recognition. The audience gleefully laughs along as a series of Facebook phrases are interpreted in a literal manner by arguing friends. Turnbull and Green are able to bring to life a diverse range of characters who are, however, easy to recognise from real life. There is a edge of melancholy as a wife, who has posted glowing reports of her marriage, has to admit it was all untrue sighing that her husband was so greedy he was happily, rather than morbidly, obese.

The sketch format is most suitable for comedy and, as a result, Stan dodges the darker aspects of social media and ignores the dramatic potential inherent in trying to trace someone whose personality seems to exist only online. The sheer range of characters obscures the central theme and there is little continuity with only the police officers reappearing throughout.

Whilst the characters are recognisable they start to become two dimensional – used to set up a punchline rather than progress the plot. The chosen subject matter blunts the edge of the humour; it is hardy cutting edge satire to point out that habitual users of Facebook tend to be superficial and self-obsessed.

Stan is a very funny show staged with wit and style. A more theatrical approach might, however, have made the show stronger and resulted in a more satisfying conclusion.

Stan is at the Kings Arms in Salford until 5 June.

– Dave Cunningham