Theatre: Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club Contact Theatre, Manchester
Wednesday 04 October 1995
Now he is in London, babysitting his kid brother Shaun, who has a bad case of the mopes in the lengthening absence of his Juliet. There is a sibling savagery to their perpetual joshing - verbal pillow-fights with ill-concealed razor blades. They fight because brothers do, but also because Shaun's self-deceiving, straight romanticism is no less artificial or debilitating than Marti's determined refusal of love.
Despite its blood-speckled conclusion, this central conflict is not pursued in Jonathan Harvey's new play with the kind of fraternal ferocity of a Sam Shepard. In fact, its seriousness only gradually emerges from the comfort blanket of a thoroughly genial, and often hilarious, bedsit comedy in which Harvey is so evidently delighted to dwell upon the associate members of his lonely hearts club. Downstairs is George (Lorraine Brunning), an English teacher and an enthusiast for good causes in a world whose naughtiness can never dent her naivety. The satire is relentless, though we are bound to be touched by her gaucheness, especially the way she jumbles unfamiliar vocabulary in a vain effort to gel with her neighbours. Upstairs is Elizabeth Berrington's Clarine ("like they put in swimming- baths?" asks Marti), though she may be Sharon, or something else entirely - she can't remember. She can sing and strum "Amazing Grace", though only to the tune of "House of the Rising Sun". She is lucky to have this bit of the community to care for her. Thirdly, there is Dean (James Bowers), a mouthy Essex transvestite, whose matter-of-fact transformation from Fifi in leatherette to a McDonald's supervisor is not to be missed.
All of this, with excellent character acting throughout, is hugely entertaining.Only towards the end does the brothers' struggle dominate. Now the acting of Tom Higgins as Marti and Scot Williams as Shaun fills the stage. Williams, an emotional Narcissus in Nikes, is convincing in every detail, and I have never seen Tom Higgins give a more developed, confident and exuberant performance. John Burgess's direction and Jackie Brooks's exactly observed design give the whole show drive and panache. This co-production by Contact and English Touring Theatre is their first collaboration, and ETT's first foray into new work. Harvey's rich, if rather diffuse, play amply rewards both innovations.
n To 14 Oct. Booking: 0161-274 4400. Then on tour. Details on 01270 501800
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 2 'Do not give them a reason': Baltimore man divides police and rioters in hope of avoiding violence
- 3 X Factor in crisis as numbers of people auditioning plummets
- 4 Baltimore riots: Furious mother marches her son home live on TV
- 5 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
Fast & Furious 7 overtakes Frozen to become 5th highest grossing movie of all time
Poldark finale review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Avengers: Age of Ultron: Nearly 700 German cinemas refuse to show movie
The Visit: Watch terrifying trailer for M Night Shyamalan's latest horror film
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 3 - review: Sansa and manhood-lopping torturer Ramsay Bolton, really?
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia