Home / Drama / The Funfair – HOME, Manchester

The Funfair – HOME, Manchester

Writer: Simon Stephens
Based on the play by Odon Von Horvath
Director : Walter Meierjohann
Reviewer : Craig Hepworth
HOME the new 25 million pounds arts centre had already done two critically acclaimed productions before the building even opened, but The Funfair adapted from the original German play Kasmir and Karoline is the first theatrical production in the new (fantastic) venue meaning anticipation and excitement was high, and while the play and production has much to celebrate it doesn’t quite hit the mark.
Adapted by the brilliant Simon Stephens who worked wonders with his adaptation of the Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night Time and directed by new artistic director of HOME Walter Meierjohann, The Funfair aims big but sadly comes up a little short.
The Funfair tells the story of Caroline and Cash, young lovers who are on the verge of a breakup as they step in to a funfair in Manchester for a night of fun, what follows however is a look at the working class people at the height of recession and an often bleak look at the class gap and possibly a glimpse to a dark future.
Everybody involved has clearly worked incredibly hard to make this something special, sadly the material itself is what lets it down, and while the style of the show is exciting to witness it’s also the thing that helps stop you from really feeling very much.For a play that looks at human exploration and the challenges and decisions we make in a time of desperation or hardships it’s surprisingly emotionless at times.

All the design elements are beautifully realised, the set an imposing wall of lights and entrance ways with a revolving stage that not only captures the spirit of the carousel but also the way the play twists and turns is impressive and of Broadway standards. The lighting captures the excitement of the fair and the menace of the play with great ease and the sound design is second to none. Also the wonderful live band are exceptional and create a perfect atmosphere that reminds us of happy times but laced in sadness and a darkness with the new arrangements If this is the quality of productions we can expect from HOME then we are in for a real treat and all must be very proud

The play itself however fails to overcome the epic production, the story for all it’s telling of the comings and goings of the central cast is a very simple story of class wars, the rich vs the poor, the first act moves at a slow pace with stylised transitions often slowing it down even more. The second act picks up momentum and opens with a superb if not over stylised scene in a beer tent, the pacing picks up and the characters start to unfold, however by the end it seems a little empty for want of a better word. We want to feel, we want to care about the ones we have spent two hours with but we don’t, not much anyway.The direction is slick and crisp, it even calls to mind TV shows like Twin Peaks but the direction, design and material seem to be fighting against each other at times.
If the pacing was picked up and the style stripped back a little it would be interesting to see if the raw emotion could come through, but as it stands it’s still trying to find it’s voice among a fantastically realised but over shadowing design. Don’t get me wrong, much can be enjoyed in this play, it has something to say and that’s always a positive, it’s entertaining and often grabs hold of you and draws you in to this dark twisted world. It’s links to today’s political climate and frustrations are nicely realised and the play genuinely feels like something new, unique and contemporary, not an easy task at all. One was never bored even when the pacing was slow, it’s an evening like no other and even when it does not completely work it’s still an intriguing and engaging play, just one that is sadly also filled with moments of frustration.
The cast are superb, Ben Batt as Cash is a real stand out, his frustration and anger are one of the times the play allows you to sympathise with the characters, even when his actions are questionable. Katie Moore looking like she has stepped out of a 50s Rockabilly musical also shines in a rôle that I wish was a little more fleshed out. Ian Bartholomew gave us a perfect vision of greed and arrogance, his every move made your skin crawl. The whole cast deserve the maximum praise though, from ensemble to leads each one added something wonderful to the production.
The Funfair might not be the perfect play and could still do with some work but what really showed is everyone involved at HOME has something exciting to bring to the Manchester theatre scene, and that is thrilling.
Runs until 13th June | Photo by Graeme Cooper
Writer: Simon Stephens Based on the play by Odon Von Horvath Director : Walter Meierjohann Reviewer : Craig Hepworth HOME the new 25 million pounds arts centre had already done two critically acclaimed productions before the building even opened, but The Funfair adapted from the original German play Kasmir and Karoline is the first theatrical production in the new (fantastic) venue meaning anticipation and excitement was high, and while the play and production has much to celebrate it doesn’t quite hit the mark. Adapted by the brilliant Simon Stephens who worked wonders with his adaptation of the Curious Incident of…

Review Overview

The Public Reviews Score

A jerky ride

About The Reviews Hub - North West

The Reviews Hub - North West
The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.