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The Man Who Woke Up Dead (Re:Play - Salford)

Joanna Ing is impressed by this homage to Film Noir.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Man Who Woke Up Dead is an homage to 1950s film noir melodramas and well done it is, too.

The Man who Woke Up Dead
© Square Peg Theatre

By appearances, Evylyn Scott (Katie Robinson) is the classic nurse with her uniform and seamed stockings, but she suffers from attacks and has stopped taking the pills prescribed to her by the intimidating Doctor Atwell. When Evylyn almost crashes her car by the side of the road, it is the man who helps her who ends up in hospital. As both their memories start to shift they find it more difficult to tell what is real, and who to trust.

What is patently clear from the very beginning is that the mysterious Doctor Atwell is about as untrustworthy as they come. Phil Minns is so cold and emotionless that it is almost a relief when he whips out the chloroform as it was bound to happen at some point. There is definitely a creepiness to the soft spoken and drawn out was he says ‘Evylyn', but perhaps there would have been more suspense if his character wasn't so clearly the villain from the start.

The strength of the production is the company's unique style. It is beautifully choreographed and the actors move around each other becoming doors and furniture to create a set on the almost empty stage. At times this device is overused but there are some impressive sequences. One that stands out is the conversation between Evylyn and Doctor Atwell as they climb, sometimes run up the staircase. Michael White conjures up the staircase with just two metal rods artfully moved around to create a staircase going round and up.

The cinematic style is further cemented by the evocative sound design by Owen Rafferty. The effects are completely immersive from the rolling ocean at the start to the dreamlike music. Like the choreography, the sound adds depth to a simple set, so the sound of knocking increases as a character gets closer to it building a picture of exactly how far he was in the first place.

On for just two more shows as part of Re:play theatre festival, Square Peg Theatre's - The Man Who Woke Up Dead is a fine example of physical theatre and the world it can create.

The Man Who Woke Up Dead is at the Lowry until 25 January.

- Joanna Ing