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The Press - Review: Breathing Corpses

Fri 08 Mar 2013

Written by Charles Hutchinson

 


Anna Soden as teenage chambermaid Amy

YOU may not be familiar with Laura Wade’s work, but that should change with the upcoming film conversion of Posh, her play about a fictionalised version of the Bullingdon Club, beloved of our leader Dave, boy George and Boris in Oxford student days.

In the meantime, the York premiere of the Royal Court hot property’s first dark deed, 2005’s Breathing Corpses, forms part of the Theatre Royal’s Yorkshire season on account of her Sheffield upbringing.

It is a typically astute choice by York Settlement Community Players, the original trendsetters among York’s rising tide of adventurous community theatre companies. More correctly, the choice was initiated by Anna-Siobhan Wilcox, the burgeoning York director who Settlement invited to direct this season’s show on the strength of her Hedda Gabler for Mooted Theatre Co last year. From her ten suggestions, Settlement settled on the experimental Breathing Corpses, a disturbing, very darkly humorous slice of intense noir that defies mathematics and logic, but is all the better for being open-ended.

It starts with an ending, and this is not giving anything away, when a bedroom suicide is discovered by teenage chambermaid Amy (York College drama student Anna Soden) in an anonymous hotel off a roundabout – a bleak English scene that Harold Pinter would have loved. You will see a silent figure with black wings and white skeletal mask meander through that room, a harbinger never to be seen again until unnerving us at the finale, as if to say, the chain reaction of deaths may not be over yet.

Hence we re-meet suicide victim Jim (Paul Osborne) as he was before, a gently joshing manager of a self-storage facility, where an awful odour has caught the nose of Jim and employee Ray (Jon Adams). Jim will never recover from what he discovers, the devastating impact captured in a scene with his kindly, caring but exasperated wife Elaine (Helen Wilson): played with the actors’ backs to the audience so that tender and broken body language becomes all.Wade then reveals what led to three other deaths, not in chronological order, but filling in the full picture by the most intriguing route, each scene change accompanied by apt music, such as Echo And The Bunnymen’s Killing Moon.

The body language is not good between businesswoman Kate (Clancy McMullan) and her bruised live-in boyfriend Ben (Nathan Unthank), whose long, brutal scene is the most difficult both to perform and watch. They pull it off superbly, Unthank continuing his rise as one of York’s most promising young talents (as does Anna Soden), while McMullan’s somehow brings vulnerability to the otherwise monstrous Kate.

One more piece must be slotted into place: another man under the duvet in that anonymous hotel on Amy’s cleaning rota. His name is Charlie (Jamie McKeller); he has a flash car, a silver tongue, an inner turmoil giving him hell, and a knife. Will he use it? That is for you to decide: one more layer of intrigue in a chilling, circular human drama into which director and cast breathe black and blue life in all its complexities.

 

http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/leisure/music/10275336.Settlement_Players_rise_to_darkly_humorous_task/

 

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