"Big Brother of After Life?"
by Christopher Graham for remotegoat on 12/09/13

VIP. ‘Very Important People’. Or are they ?
Arriving at the Black Lion on a dreary Wednesday night, we needed something to cheer us up. Thomas Ingham’s brand new comedy ‘VIP’ was set to do the job, and having won the Manchester Theatre Showcase 2013, we had high hopes.

It was refreshing to see what I like to describe as a ‘clean’ set: three chairs dressed in white; white panelling and drapes, and a mysterious-looking white chest downstage. Gentle piano music to settle us in, and off we go.

The glamorous, Prosecco-wielding footballer’s wife Cathy (Katie Burgess) is first to appear. The character’s entrance monologue really sets the scene, which is firmly cemented into place by the revelations of Florence (Hilly Barber). This initial partnership worked brilliantly: the fame-hungry Cathy versus the more learned eccentric Florence. I had some concerns over dialogue initially with Cathy’s over-use of expletives, but this thankfully dwindled as the performance progressed, and it actually worked rather well with regards to interaction and character development. Suzanne (Caroline Warhurst) completes the female trio, and really adds an interesting dimension to the perfectly-cast first half of the show.

Jason (Jack Howard), Gary (Karl Greenwood) and Reece (Karun Comar) complete the cast, and a shout to Greenwood for an outstanding performance. It has to be said the ‘boys’ half’ of the show was less impacting despite some cleverly-placed performances, and I would have like to have seen the boys as naturally flowing as the girls. It’s difficult not to think of the show as a battle of the sexes, which is possibly the only one flaw I felt the script had.

Overall, the writing of this piece was just excellent. A script that was psychologically challenging. A script that made its audience think and evaluate the characters within. A script that perfectly accompanies the stereotypical world, without turning into a drama lesson observation at a secondary school.

A superb piece of direction by Clare Barry gave this play the edge that it needed. Never once was the performance over-indulgent, tacky, nor cringe-worthy, and the use of voice offstage and confidence of performance onstage was clear, intelligent and extremely well-rehearsed.

I don’t think this script needs to be billed as a comedy. The content and message are very appropriate to today’s society, and the quality of acting was more effectively manifested during the more serious scenes. A minor point, and some very amusing moments throughout.

“I’m normal: I live a normal life”. Discuss. But make sure you buy a ticket for VIP first.

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