Before I start this post properly – do you know how many Disney songs have “a wondrous place” in them. Three. Three different songs (sorry if I ruined that guessing game a little quickly). I had an earworm which I thought, and was right, was from Aladdin (click the link above – have you noticed I’d been doing that yet – no effort spared here). But this one also has those words (something inside me died a little when I read the words “Disney Princess Franchise”) and this one is actually named A Wondrous Place. This post is not about Disney, but I wanted some song lyrics, and unfortunately the BillyFury/Alice Gold (and many other people) song does not include the A and I’m nothing if not pedantic.
Anyway pop quiz over. A Wondrous Place is the name of the play The Husband and I saw last night. Anyone who obsessively stalks me on twitter (nope? nobody?) may have noticed that I thanked the Royal Exchange for my free tickets. I won them in a twitter competition the Royal Exchange were running, but there was no expectation that I would blog about it in return, I just wanted to, and all opinions are my own (ooh my first blogging disclaimer!). On the subject of opinions, I’m not sure what mine are worth, and I don’t feel in anyway qualified to class this as a review (which does somewhat lend itself to the debate of what qualifies critics to critique but I shall resist).
So let’s get it out of the way – there was a technical hiccup at the start. Having been a tech director for many productions (even some that people paid for) I know that fear. It’s usually pretty difficult to hide a mis-timed lighting cue (particularly a blackout), or inappropriate sound effect. The problem last night was exactly that, a problem, not a mistake. It was handled professionally, fixed quickly, and once the performances began was very soon completely irrelevant. I think it speaks volumes about a cast and crew though, particularly on opening night at a venue, to skip right on through something like that, and leave the audience (us, anyway) chatting animatedly about the production the whole way home, without a second thought to the mishap.
All the more remarkable in the context of The Husband, who is even more of a seasoned tech director than me, and who I often find staring at the lighting rig during productions. And it is worth a moment to point out how effective and well-executed the technical elements of the production were. An impressive, interactive set, which worked brilliantly with the pace of the piece, and helped bring four different landscapes to life.
A Wondrous Place was four pieces, by four writers, about four contemporary cities – Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and Newcastle. Although distinct, with a different actor taking the lead for each, the production and cast felt really cohesive. It always frustrates me when audience members leave during the interval (I’m not sure if this is because the Manchester piece was before the break), but the second half had just as much to offer.
All of the cast members delivered captivating performances, and although written quite differently, all four pieces were engaging. I have to say though, it was Dog, Luke Barnes’ piece based in Liverpool, that had us talking all the way home. In some ways I think this was a reflection on the much darker content in comparison with the others, but the performance by Adam Search left us floored, and both feeling we had seen a great talent.
It was energetic, fast-paced, witty and overwhelmingly positive. Some of the pieces tended towards a city tour feel, but for me that was part of the appeal. The buildings, the street names, that weave the fabric of our everyday lives, become much more than landmarks, they are enmeshed with our own sense of self. Despite being from Manchester I’ve never been an ardent “Northerner” but I am passionate about my home city. That sense of civic pride, and the gems, sometimes unrecognised, on our own doorstep, resonated strongly with me. A thoroughly enjoyable night, and well worth the trip.
(*Click here for Part Two)
(*Click here for Part Two)