Sunday, July 14

Long Story Short – King’s Arms, Salford

The issue of crime and punishment has been discussed by writers and thinkers for thousands of years. There is, of course, Dostoevsky’s famous novel but it is a subject whose very nature makes it ideal for drama. Where there is a crime, there is a victim, a perpetrator and the associated emotions of for each of guilt, remorse, sadness and heartbreak.

These five short plays by Ward J Harries were all linked by this theme, and each had a differing perspective on the issue. They all came across as work-in-progress pieces, that do need some fine tuning, but the basic ideas behind each play were engaging. There were times when some of the writing veered too much towards melodrama and theatrical artifice. Yet there were some genuinely powerful moments of theatre when a true emotion or conflict was displayed.

Each piece was about 20 minutes long and it is difficult to establish and develop a premise in such a short space of time. Especially, when there is a lot to explain to the audience about what is going on. This meant that, unfortunately, there were too many monologues of exposition and a little too much telling than showing. Perhaps, if these ideas are elongated then this information can become more dialogue based than simply telling the audience the situation.

The most effective piece was the final one, Panic of the Coward, a Pinteresque drama about three bank robbers who have failed in their heist and are having to face the consequences of their failure. There were echoes of The Dumb Waiter, but it was extremely well acted by Ward J Harries, Reece Hallam and Ross Thompson. However, the piece did not need the agit-prop theatre parts that were brought in as a motivation for the characters.

To start the night there was a piece entitled Punishment which was about a dystopian dictatorship where the public have tired of capital punishment and a new unwilling executioner is being shown the ropes. There was too much exposition here and I was not sure if it was aiming for the kind of dark comedy as seen in the TV programme Inside No. 9 or if it was meant to be a satire.

Trapped, the next play, was set in a prison cell and hardened lag Ash (Ross Thompson) has to share his cell with newbie Jordan (Morgan Bailey). This took the form of an old-fashioned morality play where there was a discussion between the two of them about the nature of good, evil and all the grey areas that lie in between. This philosophical debate, whilst well written and argued, seemed a tad unrealistic for two prisoners to be having but the acting by the two men was first rate.

A rather weak comic episode, Neighbourhood Watch, concluded the first half. Pete Gibson was clearly having great fun playing the pompous, insufferable Jonathan Watson who has gathered his teenage daughter and others to stakeout a bakery to catch a sandwich thief. The writing needed to be tighter to make this work but there were some funny lines that were particularly well timed by Gibson.

The other play, Affliction, was a surreal melodrama which was simply too confused and confusing. It contained some extremely shouty acting but Ross Thompson as Erebus was wonderfully creepy and charismatic. Indeed, he was the standout performer on the night with some neat comic timing and an admirable ability to give the characters he was playing some emotional truth.

It continues at The King’s Arms until Thursday 13th June –

Reviewer: Adam Williams

Reviewed: 11th June 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.