"A Novel Idea, Well Executed"
by Patrick Cunningham for remotegoat on 18/09/14

A really novel and sweet new piece of theatre from the Manchester-based company ‘From the Mill’ gave the interesting and more-to-it-than-it-seems story of novelist Nathan, during a televised interview. Suspense built and plot thickened as the play led up to its ultimate crescendo.

Kudos to writer Tom Hodson and director Onur Orkut; the script flowed nicely and the blocking as a whole was very effective, if, at times, a little clunky. Though slow to start, the story evolved and gained momentum at a good pace, building layers of detail, along with the audience’s intrigue and investment in the characters. The split-stage flashback format worked very nicely and its initial rigidity and strict form gave real gravity to the moments where it was deliberately broken.

Solid and convincing performances were given by John Mulholland (Lee) and Jennifer Campbell (J), who each lent a naturalistic edge to the performance and nicely slotted in the story overall, adding detail and dimension.
The one who shone through for me though was Tom Hodson (the Interviewer), who provided an almost Jiminy Cricket conscience-like guide throughout the performance. His fixed position and inclusion of the audience really was an anchor that held firmer still as the heat and tension were turned up.
The portrayal of the writer Nathan (Helly), on the other hand, is difficult to describe. The ever-awkward writer falling out of favour with the public and his publisher came through, but at times it was very tough to suspend one’s disbelief and look past the over-acting and choices of portrayal. As an audience, instead of identifying with the protagonist whose story we are seeing, it was (often painfully) obvious that we were watching an actor, performing a role.

The intimate venue, small but able cast, simple lighting and minimal set all assembled together to pull in and intrigue the audience. Indeed, the performance’s technical simplicity did not detract in any way from the storytelling, but in fact aided greatly the build-up of the plot.

This ‘newly emerging’ theatre company is worth keeping an eye out for. The show on the whole was solid and isn’t a bad way to spend an evening, should you have the chance.

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