Strong performances, a stunning soundtrack, yet weak writing: those are the things I know to be true about Frantic Assembly’s latest production.
With movement sequences that have carved new boundaries for the physical theatre sphere, they are widely recognised for their ambitious performances. However it seems their latest production distances them from their usual trademarks and gets a little lost in the process.
The story follows the trials and tribulations of the Price family, as they tackle every hard-hitting theme life can throw at them.
Drugs, tick. Debt, tick. Sexuality, you betcha.
We begin with Rosie (Kirsty Oswald), easily the most assured performance in the cast, as she recounts her gap year experience. Typical of Frantic Assembly she is flipped and thrown effortlessly through the air, however this is all too short lived; as the plot develops we witness a series of gradually less expressive events.
There is Pip (Natalie Casey), the eldest child of Fran (Imogen Stubbs) and Bob (Ewan Stewart), who battles with her responsibilities not just as a mother but a woman who has fallen out of love. Stubbs and Stewart carry the audience through a timeline of emotional blunders, their genuine chemistry providing the most authentic relationship on stage.
The play falters as the issues of love and loss become predictable. Cue Mark (Matthew Barker), a man struggling with his identity, and if that wasn’t enough, here’s Ben (Richard Mylan) with – you guessed it – a drug problem.
Playwright Andrew Bovell has definitely succeeded in fulfilling a paint-by-numbers approach to family life, but has failed to capture the reality of most modern day homes.
Interestingly, those who resonate most with this piece are not the typical Frantic audience. Young people may be left lacking empathy with these tragedy-stricken characters, whereas aging members – think mid-life crisis zone – will no doubt shed a tear.
The supremely polished floor, perfect for the infrequent movement sequences, coupled with Nils Frahm’s gentle, piano-based score did not go amiss, however were not enough to overshadow the all too muddy writing.
A polished floor for sure, but a not so polished performance.
- Physical Theatre
- By Andrew Bovell
- Directors: Geordie Brookman and Scott Graham, Frantic Assembly
- Cast includes: Imogen Stubbs, Ewan Stewart, Kirsty Oswald
- The Lowry, Salford
- On UK Tour
- Review by Madeleine Drury
- 26 November 2016