Welcome to Manchester Confidential
Reset Password
The Confidential websites will be undergoing routine updates. This may cause the sites to go offline. We apologise in advance for any inconvenience.

You are here: Manchester ConfidentialEntertainment & SportTheatre & Comedy.

Susan & Darren

Joan Davies is entranced by the return of this classic piece of modern Mancunian theatre

Published on May 6th 2010.

Susan & Darren

Blazing a trail for the 18th, and apparently final, Queer Up North festival, Susan & Darren, returns to Manchester. This highly original piece of theatre, described as an ‘event with dancing’, forges intimate connections between performers and audience and fully deserves its place on the programme four years after its premiere.

There’s also a disco routine to Barry White and a beautifully entrancing pole dance. Not a phrase I ever thought I’d write.

It’s a little changed. The venue’s moved from the Contact Theatre to a chandeliered function room in Sashas Hotel. Susan and Darren are four years older, but the essentials – their devotion to one another, the key events that shaped their lives, their home rooted in family, friends and community, and their love of music and dance – remain the same. As does this piece’s impressive power to make a revealing emotional connection with the audience, bringing laughter to all and tears to many.

Susan and Darren, played by real life mother and son Susan and Darren Pritchard, invite us to their house in Manchester. It's an ordinary home with an IKEA chair, a display cabinet containing memories of past lives and relationships, and a rug to hide the flaw in the flooring.

Without the props of chairs, cabinets or rugs, Darren and Susan use everyday words and simple gestures to describe and display the furniture. We can really see it. I'm delighted to learn that in front of my seat are coasters printed with images of Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.

Darren’s a professional dancer. Susan introduces herself as a cleaner, but in her soul she’s also a dancer, though this show is probably the first time she’s performed for an audience. Both dance for fun and as a form of expression, displaying the solidity of their familial love.

Production credits fall to Quarantine, Company Fierce and Contact Theatre. Quarantine has built a strong national reputation for working with a mix of professional performers and amateurs to develop work which looks at the remarkable and the universal in stories of local people. Their work is worth looking out for.

Company Fierce is Darren’s dance company and Contact contributed to the original production, as well as fostering Darren's talent and aspirations in his earlier years.

Directors Richard Gregory and Renny O’Shea have brought out such highly naturalistic performances that it’s almost surprising to see a credit to the writer Sonia Hughes. This is a home-grown production that evokes memories of foreign sailors in Salford Docks and the Reno in Moss Side. But although the setting is Mancunian, it tells a universal story about the deep, unconditional love in a mother-and-son relationship.

So why is this show part of Queer Up North? It’s because Darren’s gay. His coming out to his mother is one of the key points in the story, or certainly was in the earlier production. In May 2006, when Susan & Darren premiered, we’d seen less than six months of UK civil partnership ceremonies for gay couples. When Darren told his mother he was gay, it was quite a big deal (for Darren at least, though not apparently for his mother as she’d long been aware). The context and impact of his homosexuality are what seem to have changed the most since the original run.

Any quibbles about this show are minor and possibly arise from the difficulties of using a non-theatre space. Spotlights marred my vision at times and I couldn’t always hear the family and friends' video contributions clearly.

But it’s a beautiful, thoughtful piece of work. Particularly impressive are periods of silent, slow movement on a silent dancefloor-stage watched by a still and silent audience. There’s also a disco routine to Barry White and a beautifully entrancing pole dance. Not a phrase I ever thought I’d write. Darren’s long limbs challenge the pole with a different view of the power of masculinity while Kathleen Ferrier sings Bach. Choreography by Jane Mason is bewitching and genuinely varied.

Susan & Darren, until Saturday 8 May, Sashas Hotel, Tib Street, Manchester, 8pm daily, £15/£13 concessions (includes full buffet and disco), 0843 208 1840, www.queerupnorth.com

Like what you see? Enter your email to sign up for our newsletters which are chock-a-block with more great reviews, news, deals and savings.

audience memberMay 6th 2010.

I went to see this last night. Incredibly beautiful. You feel lucky to be in the same room as them. Go and see it before it's over.

AnonymousMay 7th 2010.

Went to see Susan and Darren this week. It is the emperors new clothes. No narrative, no substance, no sub-text, no art - just lame, lazy and laconic. It's publicly funded to the hilt - is this 'gimic' as good as it gets?????

To post this comment, you need to login.Please complete your login information.
Or you can login using Facebook.

Latest Rants


Believe me MONOPRIX more ASDA than Tesco....

 Read more

What are 'richest diary pastures'?

 Read more

Saw it a few years ago at the Opera House with Marcus Brigstocke as Arthur. Really good, silly fun.…

 Read more
David Smith

Crackerjack................whooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. Strong current reference there.

 Read more

Explore The Site

© Mark Garner t/a Confidential Direct 2021

Privacy | Careers | Website by: Planet Code | SEO by The eWord