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Box Of Tricks Reviewed: 24/7 Festival

Joan Davies thinks you should go

Written by . Published on July 21st 2014.

Box Of Tricks Reviewed: 24/7 Festival

BOX of Tricks, one of the ten new short plays at Manchester’s unique 24:7 Theatre Festival, packs plenty of story and emotion into its one hour slot. This is a tale based on sibling love and sibling rivalry placed in the familiar family setting of the unspoken.

The brothers are superbly played by Sam Moran, as Mark and Sam Thompson as Mike. 

The play opens with Mike’s return from success in New Zealand’s wine industry. He’s home to attend the funeral of his brother Mark, tragically killed in a car crash on the eve of his engagement.  Everyone seems to dislike Mike, fiancée, Aunty Pat and Uncle Sean. Mike’s refusal to speak at the funeral and disinterest in even carrying the coffin justify their views.

The back story unfolds to reveal the seeds and results of their mother’s drink and depression problems, the vital and continuing support from Pat and Sean, and the way Mike took care of baby brother Mark. 

Writers Stephen M Hornby and Ric Brady live in different cities, Stephen in Manchester and Ric in Paris, so their collaboration has largely worked through Skype and FaceTime. Given the distance, it’s a remarkably tight piece, cleverly using audience familiarity with family to tell a deeper story.  

Judy Holt, a familiar North West face, regularly seen on 'Scott & Bailey’ takes the role of Pat. A sincere and solid performance in the role of the aunt who steps in to become the sincere and solid lynchpin of the family once the mother falls apart. There are strong performances too from Kate Levelle as fiancée Phillipa, and Richard Sales as Sean. 

The brothers are superbly played by Sam Moran, as Mark and Sam Thompson (pictured, thanks to Michael Pollard) as Mike. Childhood scenes, which make up much of the early part of the play, are portrayed with beautiful accuracy on both a physical and emotional plane, and Mike’s emotional release at the end brings a tearful response from the audience.  

Box of Tricks is strongly directed by Helen Parry with support from Cerys Vivian as movement coach. The pace is strong, the writing believable, and the performances give a natural feel to the whole. Sunday was a sell-out.  More performances follow, with the last at 6pm this Friday. Book now if you want to see it. 

24:7 Theatre Festival, with ten new one-hour plays, runs at New Century House until Friday 25 July. Tickets {£8 and £6} from www.247theatrefestival.co.uk  

 New Century House and Hall, centre, venue for 24/7


New Century House and Hall, centre, venue for 24/7

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