By Amy Senior, Entertainment Correspondent
A buzz of anticipation and trepidation fills Manchester University’s Martin Harris Centre as the seats are unusually occupied from back to front.
Perhaps this is because only the brave are prepared to plant themselves on that first row of a show called Fetish Knights, a past-time that writer Rob Ellis believes is one of society’s last taboos.
Ellis also assumes the protagonist role as Sean-John Parkinson in a play that was originally intended for television. A large screen shows a Dallas style montage of Manchester introducing the audience to a small and brash set of characters to the tune of Candi Staton’s Young Hearts.
As the opening credits end, Karl (Anthony Crank) switches on the lights of the underground Associates Bar and a leather-clad Kenneth Cadbury-Love (Dean Sullivan) walks daintily in to the fetish haven. As he grumbles over the domestics between him and his partner Ted, Sean enters seemingly agitated and dressed top to toe in leather complete with RoboCop style helmet.
The core cast finally convene as Sean’s best friend Jake arrives immediately counteracting Sean’s hyperactive narcissism with a calming alpha male persona. The seedy village bar seems far from erotic or forbidden but more like the Woolpack with Ken’s constant rants over a declining Marks and Sparks and debates over parallel parking. Yet just like a standard soap pub, a series of twists unravel through multiple fag-break revelations.
The play boasts a laugh a minute with sharp, witty gags which on occasion breech the line of appropriate. Dean Sullivan, best known as Brookside’s Jimmy Corkhill, binds the play together at the leather seams with a quality performance that conveys the wit and poignancy of Ellis’ script perfectly.
At times the storyline and performances felt slightly forced with the see-saw of extreme emotions and yet it all makes sense when imagined in the TV series format it was originally designed for.
To best describe the show without ruining the plot, it is a cross between EastEnders with numerous twists and Shameless with its disgraceful but appealing humour. The writer successfully relates that fetish, S&M and leather are just raunchy disguises for some very ordinary people going through some extraordinary situations.
This play is perfect for a dose of light relief and a peak into a sweet love story wrapped in this humorously mundane side of the fetish world, but would certainly be much better served over time rather than in a two hour performance.
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