Pulse Festival: The Very Thought of You

Readings of plays are great levellers. For rather as with a part-completed sculpture half emerging from the base material, the audience has as much work to do as anyone else more obviously involved in its creation.

Pulse Festival: The Very Thought of You, Eclipse Theatre, St. Nicholas Centre, 16th June

Readings of plays are great levellers. For rather as with a part-completed sculpture half emerging from the base material, the audience has as much work to do as anyone else more obviously involved in its creation.

But if they contribute their fair share (not least in ignoring the flapping of scripts and being able to project their own imaginations onto the bare stage), the rewards are surprisingly rich.

Such was the case with this reading of Linda Brogan's work set in the intense atmosphere of working class Manchester in 1959. Director Pete Rowe assured us that the actors had only come together at 11am that day to prepare.


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With its overtones of fracturing personal relationships and its undertones of racial tensions, this was less a raw view of the world than one being openly flayed. The violence of the emotions is certainly matched by the violence of the language, as scenes switch between the pub, the claustrophobic interior of a tenement building and the road between them.

Irish-born Margaret and Fonsi are at the end of many things, including their time in England and maybe their marriage. Their West Indian-born friend and drinking companion, Basil, clearly has the hots for Margaret but is subtle enough to approach her through winning the affection of her daughter, Mary as well as, later, more directly.

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Fonsi, a charmer when sober and a brute when whiskey-sodden, confronts both his wife and Basil and the play ends ambiguously when Margaret leaves and we are unsure whether it is to join Basil or to leave all of the above behind.

Catherine Prendergast as Margaret was the most accomplished of the four, both feisty during her present battles and moving in recollecting her back-story of abuse. James Scales as Fonsi grew in complexity and emotional stature, conveying in a very understated way both the anger and humour of his character. His drunken palaeo-socialist discourse on dandelions and potatoes was a scream.

Niamh McCann as the young Mary had the most difficult role in filling out the role of the Irish couple's eldest child but effectively managed to convey both her innocence outside the family and her maturity within it. Derek Ezenagu as Basil was competent, if still somewhat warming up in his role.

As a work in progress, this production actively offered the audience an amazingly 'in-yer-face' experience in its own right. It also sufficiently engaged us that most would, I'm sure, wish to see how it develops towards its completed version.

I hope to see the team back here when they're ready.

Paul Simon

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