Face Value - written by James Antonio, directed by Derek Lawson – TwinBird Productions Friday 12th July 2013 Rating ***
Friday at the aptly named Nowt Part of Festival in Manchester was very much a Liverpool occasion. Although due to location I was unable attend in my magazine capacity I was very glad that I braved the heat and took a look what was on offer. The first of which was billed as a play about vanity and greed by Liverpool’s James Antonio who was featured at the Write Now Festival in 2012.
What starts out as very much Dallas against a background of Nip and Tuck is quickly brought down to earth and returns to Britain with a bump when John, played by the brilliantly dysfunctional Clay Whitter, makes his entry. Suddenly the audience is confronted with a hostage situation that is as alarmingly real as the layout of the hospital ward itself. Although staged in an effective but simple single set, director Derek Lawson does cleverly take you well beyond the four walls of the theatre. Somehow a lottery win is added to the already complex family dynamic where friendship and loyalties become tested to the max.
Cinthya Verenice Quijano plays facially bandaged plastic surgery fanatic Cindy with the pregnant Gemma (Christine Hall), providing a friendship that eventually comes to the rescue. Kristian Parsons as long suffering Uncle Simon rights the balance and adds an air of normality to the sometimes crash-speed story line. Face Value is adventurous and much happens within the period of an hour. A commendable performance by the cast and powerful delivery by Clay Whitter produced something that I have to say is well worthy of a ‘go and see’ recommendation.
Vienna – written by Mike Francis Carvalho, directed by illy – Gerundagala Productions Friday 12th July 2013
The second play of the evening also had a Liverpool connection with writer Mike Francis Carvalho, best known for the somewhat controversial Merseyside drama Breathe In and cast members who have both also been involved with the Write Now Festival. I suppose it is fair to say that like others I was expecting an Ultravox themed version of Viva Forever or We Will Rock You. In Vienna that ultimately turns out not to be the case.
Amir Rahimzadeh plays Barry who has other noticeable problems than just an obsession with being Midge Ure. The unemployed, slightly ageing new romantic has become a thorn in the side of former partner Annabelle and their dialogue is somehow both humorous and often disturbing at almost the same time. Sharon Heywood who plays Annabelle becomes convincingly inebriated as she gulps her way through a bottle of spirits as means of an anaesthetic to numb Barry’s jealous demands and eventually the guitar playing vulture lines up to make his move.
The 1980’s are emulated to perfection and I found the portrayal of psychiatric illness by Rahimzadeh absolutely engrossing and extremely plausible. The ending is unpredictable because like me you’ll probably never have seen anything like it before. Vienna will naturally appeal to music fans of the era but I honestly feel that the excitingly brittle delivery and quality of humour will potentially open it up to a much wider audience. A truly excellent two hander that most certainly does not turn out as expected.
To be honest I didn't time them but I suspect they were both around an hour in length as they were both on during the same evening programme. Thanks for the comment and yes there were indeed extremely interesting.