Currently playing at HOME Manchester is Dibby Productions’ Toxic. Written and performed by Nathaniel J Hall as The Playwright and with Josh-Susan Enright as the Performer this is a sharp, quick witted, fast paced piece of theatre which tells the story of two thirty something men who meet, fall in love and f*ck it up.
Set in Manchester in 2017, two damaged individuals meet in a hot and sweaty queer warehouse party, their hearts collide, and a bond is formed. What plays out is the powerful story of that love. They love hard, live hard, play hard and I’m not gonna beat around the bush here, they f*ck hard too.
From the opening ‘4th wall’ smashing sequence where we were told what the play would not be the audience were gripped and that attention did not waiver as the 90-minute performance unfolded and what we were told would not happen, happened.
Within Lu Herbert’s stunning set design these two lovers played and partied, set up home together, enjoyed a vibrant sex life and shared their most intimate insecurities. There is love and there is trust and there is a synchronicity between them that fuses them together and is echoed cleverly throughout the whole design of the piece.
A powerful story is told in a powerful way. Beautiful movement pieces exquisitely choregraphed by Ayden Brouwers and Lizard Morris expressed the joy and elation in the pill popping club sequences as the relationship erupted into life; sex scenes were cunningly raunchy and beautifully imaginative; fights and conflict were balletic, brutal and visually stunning within Tracey Gibbs’ and Dee Dixon’s excellent lighting and projection designs.
This could not be executed without a strong connection between Hall and Enright and this pair of actors deliver and some. Both characterisations and physicality are strong; their rhythms are metronome accurate, and their energy is precisely pitched; from cocaine fuelled nights when they are ‘out’ out to poignant moments off loss and grief. Both performances are accomplished and polished.
For me, what makes this piece so moving is the writing. Its dramatic style is slick and intelligent. Its content is heartbreakingly accurate. The nuances of why a relationship goes wrong, the mistakes we make, the shame and stigma that the LGBTQ+ community can struggle with, the damage a failed relationship can cause to a person, the sadness of a lost love, they are all woven beautifully into this excellent script.
What emerges has such honesty and truth; that hurt people hurt people; that that which is so intoxicating can become toxic; that you do not get closure unless you learn to close the door yourself.
Brilliant writing, talented and powerful performances and very strong production values all round. Toxic was intoxicating on every level. An excellent show!
Playing until 28th October.
Reviewer: Lou Kershaw
Reviewed: 19th October 2023
North West End UK Rating: