Contractions / North of Providence
GM Fringe, 2017
Two short plays which showed power struggles at their most heart-wrenching and relevant, inviting us to realise the power that we have within ourselves, and the value of the positive connections we have within them.
Both plays also show the effects of relationships often under-discussed and yet so crucial. Rather than romance we see employer and employee explored in the first, rather than a dying dad. In the second, the focus is on brother and sister.
This is illuminating theatre and a refreshing perspective that makes you think long and hard, feeling thankful for the experience. Try it or miss out.
I Love Manchester, read the full reveiw
Bartlett sets a frighteningly persuasive tone. In a culture of zero hours contacts and wage stagnation it is only too credible that employees should be expected to accept surveillance of their activities and restrictions on their personal life. It is a finely paced script moving from a slightly exaggerated humorous tone to full-blown horror.
The simple set-up of a stark interview room without any distractions allows Director Sam Redway to build an atmosphere of gathering hysteria. You can sense the insanity bubbling under the tense surface with the occasional remark like ‘’ Do you bleed?’’
The success of the play is, therefore, dependent upon the actors; a challenge to which they rise with style. James Oates and Hannah Ellis Ryan are completely convincing as siblings – bawling at the top of their lungs and constantly criticising each other. Hannah Ellis Ryan has an almost evangelical zeal as she tries to influence her wastrel brother and James Oates is able to suggest the guilt that has been pushing Bobbie towards his self-punishing shambolic lifestyle.
Manchester Theatre Awards, read the full review
Hope Mill Theatre, 2017
The cast deliver each scene with commitment and confidence, there are moments that challenge – do you look on or turn away? The production make you think beyond what you see acted out on stage as you recognise thoughts and feelings played out by Michael and Justine, as those seemingly with the upper hand may actually be the needy and the lonely of this world. Powerful, bold and dynamic theatre.
Manchesters' Finest. Read the full review.
Behind the laughs of the intimate audience at Play With Fire Productions’ latest performance comes a real sense of melancholy and unease. Herding Cats, by Lucinda Coxon, tells the stories of a trio of characters, all crippled by the loneliness of life, but each armed with their own facades and coping mechanisms to get them through the day-to-day.
Directed by Olivier Award-nominated Lawrence Evans, this production marks the companies third visit to Hope Mill Theatre after Orphans in January 2016 and Sans Merci in September 2016. It is safe to say that this is a team who are not scared to break boundaries and convention, running the show without the traditional interval, and often creating uncomfortably watchable theatre as they tackle difficult and sometimes distressing issues, including alcoholism, agoraphobia, incomprehensible livings and warped sexual fantasies.
The Reviews Hub. Read the full review here
Hope Mill Theatre, 2016
it is the interaction between the cast, as the characters become able to acknowledge the grief they share, that makes the production so moving. As Kelly and Elizabeth bond over their mutual loss Ellis Ryan and Holt illustrate the illogical yet compulsive rituals that we observe during the grieving process. The self-lacerating belief that to allow ourselves to heal is somehow disrespectful to the dead.
Manchester Theatre Awards
Sans Merci is the second production by Play With Fire Productions, the resident company at the newly established, and rather lovely, Hope Mill Theatre. If this production is anything to go by, the company are filling a much-needed gap in theatre performance in the city. Sans Merci is traditional drama which relies are good writing and powerful performances, simply made and beautifully executed.
The Reviews Hub
It is, of course, a critics’ cliché to speak of a production being worth seeing for the strength of a single performance. Cliché or no, this has to be said of Ellis Ryan’s Kelly. Her delivery, even on opening night, is controlled, passionate, loving, needy, conflicted and caring. As the bridging character (between present and flashback) Kelly leaps from grief and exasperation in her exchanges with the erudite, acerbic Elizabeth, straight into the joy of new love (in her flashback scenes with Tracy).
Ellis Ryan draws the audience with her through these transitions, displaying a level of skill, conviction and judgement that should see her performing on a bigger stage (with all due respect to the admirable Hope Mill Theatre). This is not a showy performance but, in its measured way, it approaches the exquisite.
British Theatre Guide