The 24:7 festival offers emerging theatre companies the chance to show the general public what they are made of – something that Shred Productions and Balloon Head Productions have embraced wholeheartedly in their latest work Sherica.
A flawless production boasting talented performers, a sharp script and slick transitions, the show oozes professionalism and has you captivated from beginning to end.
Covering taboo topics like prostitution, affairs and underage sex sensitively is no mean feat and there’s plenty of scope for things to go drastically wrong (cast your mind back to drama classes at high school). But in this instance the issues are dealt with by writer Ian Winterton so cleverly, and with such belief by the tight cast of six, that they captivate the audience.
What’s even more impressive is the seamless way in which the writing and the acting manages to merge together a heartbreaking and brutal reality with opportunities for laughter. The cast’s belief in what they are doing truly shines through – not only does every performer manage to completely inhabit their character, more importantly there’s a perfect complicity between them. Their performances leave no question that each has the capability of succeeding – whether it be in theatre or television.
Being in such close proximity to their audience and working in the round means that the actors are faced with the challenge of acting for the screen, instead of the stage. Since the majority of the performers’ CVs are purely theatre-based, they do an impressive job of not overdoing it, making you feel that you are very much part of their sordid world, not just an observer looking in.
Ruth Middleton plays the role of protective sister and secret ‘sex worker’ with the same integrity and passion as Natalie Portman in Closer, while Oliver Devoti is extremely watchable as her confused, and some may say naive, client Michael. Katy Slater puts in a masterful portrayal of heartache and humour in her part as Holly – an art teacher-stroke-social worker – who is faced with a cheating hubby. David Slack, as Pope, plays the headteacher role to perfection.
The strongest performance of them all comes from Nicola Stebbings as Natalie. The actress portrays the exterior confidence of a young girl burdened with family troubles with such believability that you find yourself filled with sympathy, rather than disgust, at her behaviour.
Sherica, meaning ‘forever or alone, ruler’ is ultimately an apt title for a production that is a ruler of the 24:7 scene. If you can’t catch it here, then be sure to catch it this summer at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Rating: 4/5Sherica, Sachas, 12 Tib Street, Piccadilly, Manchester M4 1SH Last performance: Friday 29 July 7.30pm Tickets are available from www.247theatrefestival.co.uk or on the door if available
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