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For All The Wrong Reasons

Nicola Mostyn finds several good reasons to enjoy this new piece of groundbreaking theatre

Published on July 12th 2007.

For All The Wrong Reasons

There’s a man dressed in ballet clothes and bunny ears doing a slow, jittery sensual sort of dance. This is the opening scene of ‘For All The Wrong Reasons’ and, beautiful and perplexing, it perfectly sets the tone for what’s to come in this imaginative, experimental play.

After being asked to work on a commission for Manchester International Festival, Contact teamed up with Belgium theatre company Victoria and their Director, Lies Pauwels, an actress and rising star on the European theatre scene who is known for her unusual working methods.

In creating this production Pauwels hand picked the six cast members from auditions at Contact and then worked with them as a group in Manchester and on a one-to-one basis in Belgium, improvising much of the work from reflections on personal experience. The resulting play is as difficult to describe as it is captivating to watch.

But I’d better have a go. So…here are some of the things which happen:Six cast members inhabit the stage, adopting and throwing off characters as fluidly as they shed their costumes. Monologues are set to, or punctuated by, loud blasts of music. A screen overhead is used to list the cast, movie-style, at the start and then goes onto translate snatches of foreign language or deliver song lyrics. Occasionally a child’s voice narrates a story about (I think) mining.

Within this slightly dreamlike, occasionally nightmarish set of overlapping scenes several characters can be distinguished: the posh women who wants to adopt a Nigerian baby; the emigrant looking to be saved, the suicidal young girl; the woman discriminated against for her dwarfism; the soldier who has done something terrible. Characters are physically manhandled, drop into faints, swap rabbit ears, cover each other with flowers and dance.

I’ll admit that, when you see it in black and white, it sounds potentially horrendous. And I imagine in someone else’s hands it easily could have been. But somehow it all works wonderfully.

There are only a couple of moments at which the play threatens to lose its charm for me - once during an unpoetic rant about Judge Judy by David Hoyle (aka Divine David) and once when the soldier’s monologue takes a turn for the disturbing.

Those aside, I found FATWR to be that rare thing; a boundary pushing piece of art which knows exactly what it is aiming to do and which successfully hits the mark. The writing is superb, the cast are powerful and the seemingly random elements interlock to make an ambiguous but complete, confident and compelling piece of work.

Not everyone will agree. As I came out smiling, in awe of such ambitious creativity, I overheard one young woman saying to her friend: “Did you enjoy it? Really? I didn’t want to be there.”

But then, I suppose you don’t get to produce such an innovative, poetic piece of theatre and please all of the people. Or if you do, it’s probably not for the best of reasons.

For All The Wrong Reasons. Contact (Oxford Road, City. 0161 274 0600. www.contact-theatre.org) From £5. Until Sat Jul 14.

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