Writer: Joe Penhall
Director: Helen Parry
Reviewer: Tracey Lowe
The Public Reviews Rating:
Joe Penhall has been on a bit of a roll recently. With two successful plays at the Royal Court (‘Haunted Child’ and ‘Birthday’), he is reaffirming himself as one of the best British playwrights. ‘Some Voices’ is one of his earlier works, performed for the first time in 1994, but still feels completely fresh in this revival by Blackhand Productions.
‘Some Voices’ follows Ray, who has been released from a psychiatric hospital following treatment for his schizophrenia. He goes to live with his brother Pete, who attempts to monitor the medication that stops the voices in Ray’s head. As Ray adjusts back to normal society, he meets Laura and begins to fall in love with her. The only obstacle is her abusive boyfriend, who also happens to have impregnated her.
It’s a play that deals with the issue of mental illness, but that is by no means the content of this piece. Like any good play, it deals with human relationships and the problems these relationships face. The script is very natural and current, quite an achievement for a play that is nearly twenty years old.
The ensemble cast work extremely well together. James Jowett’s portrayal of Ray is very convincing, and he comes across as very likeable. His chemistry with both Andrew Roberts-Palmer (Pete) and Charlotte Dalton (Laura) feels very natural; the intimate scenes between Ray and Laura positively sizzle with passion, it’s a good thing the audience had the interval to cool off! Andrew Roberts-Palmer is wonderful as the patient but frustrated Pete.
This production also makes great use of the vast space the John Thaw Studio offers. Props and furniture are placed around the stage, with scenes taking place in all areas and allowing for easy scene transitions. The play flows incredibly well.
There are sections of the play that are quite dark, and deal with some quite heavy issues, but the dialogue is filled with bleak humour, so the audience don’t feel they have been through the wringer by the time they leave. It raises awareness of domestic abuse and mental illness without being overtly didactic, and is an engrossing and fulfilling piece of theatre.
Runs until 13th September 2012
Some Voices – John Thaw Studio Theatre, Manchester,
Tags: Andrew Roberts Palmer, Birthday, Blackhand Productions, Charlotte Dalton, Drama, Haunted Child, Helen Parry, James Jowett, Joe Penhall, John Thaw Studio Theatre, Manchester, Martin Harris Centre, mental health, mental illness, Royal Court, schizophrenia, Some Voices, Theatre