Thursday, September 28

Coke, Machines, Stars & Kisses – 53two

There can’t be a better physical representation of the ups and downs of life, relationships and self-discovery than a trampoline and here there is one slap, bang centre-stage and it is physically and metaphorically central to this play.

As it begins Lewis is enjoying himself on the trampoline. He is sure of himself, knows how to control his body and can even perform a few tricks. Lewis appears to be a self-assured, confident, working-class lad who sniffs a bit of coke as he drinks and smokes.

Not only is he the last to leave Dale’s party but he was also uninvited. Dale has returned to Manchester after living in London and he wants Lewis to leave. Yet they get talking and start out on a journey of self-discovery for both of them which will take them up to the stars and back down to earth.

They went to the same school, lived on the same estate but Dale got out. He went to university and became the person he wanted to be. Lewis, on the other hand, never left, never sees himself leaving and whilst he is rooted in the community, he is in many ways lost.

Dale is gay and was bullied at school by Lewis and his mates. Whilst he forgives him by saying, “It was teenage lads doing what teenage lads do,” Lewis realises he was wrong and we realise the cocksure guy we see at the start is actually not so sure of himself.

The power dynamic between the two of them starts to shift and whilst at first Dale seemed unsure of himself, he slowly becomes more confident as he knows who he is. This is demonstrated on the trampoline when a reluctant Dale joins Lewis to have a go on it. At first, he is anxious and afraid before gaining confidence and bouncing around with aplomb.

The play was written by John O’Neill, who also played the part of Dale. The script was superb. There was a wonderful naturalistic flow to the dialogue but the writer wasn’t afraid to make the characters poetic at exactly the right time. The balance between the two characters was wonderfully judged and to examine how we find and escape ourselves within an hour-long play was remarkable.

His performance as Dale was understated in a way but it was strong and profound. He was able to show that whilst on the surface he did not appear as confident as Lewis he actually had a deeper well of assurance because he knew who he was.

Alexander Townson as Lewis was clearly having a lot of fun in the part. At times he displays lots of Mancunian swagger but he then lets his guard down to reveal a more sensitive, romantic soul that is far more open-minded than the teenage bully he used to be. It was impressive how he was able to bring out these different dimensions of a quite complex character.

There was plenty of humour in the play and it was a fascinating and thoughtful piece of theatre.

Reviewer: Adam Williams

Reviewed: 25th August 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.