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Blindsided, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, Review

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by David Keyworth (subscribe)
Iím a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester. My debut poetry pamphlet is available at
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Blindsided is a must-see play
In the same week that Julie Hesmondhalgh collected a best performance prize at the glitzy National Television Awards, she starred in the world premiere of a gritty drama.
Julie Hesmondhalgh Katie West
Julie Hesmondhalgh and Katie West

Blindsided by Olivier Award winner, Simon Stephens, is set in 1979, in a Britain beset by strikes and on the verge of a new political era. In Stockport, house burglar and trainee accountant, John Connolly (Andrew Sheridan), meets 17-year-old mother and student, Cathy Heyer (Katie West). They instantly fall into each other's clutches and set up house together.

Their relationship is fiercely opposed by Cathy's mother Susan (Julie Hesmondhalgh), who judges that John is nothing but trouble for her vulnerable and impulsive daughter.

It's a credit to Julie Hesmondhalgh's acting that you quickly forget her headline-grabbing role as Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street. She is utterly convincing in her exasperation at the way Cathy ignores her warnings about John.

In many ways though, the first half of the play belongs to Andrew Sheridan. He is completely compelling in the way he captures Connolly's alternation between cruelty and charm.

After the interval, an act of betrayal leads Cathy to carry out an horrific form of vengeance. The scenes where Cathy confesses what she's done to her Mother are the most electric of the whole night. Katie West's acting achieves a frightening degree of intensity.

In the closing section of Blindsided, Julie Hesmondhalgh switches to the role of the older Cathy. The play ends on a tentative note of forgiveness, although it is too well crafted to draw to a neat and simplistic conclusion.

Simon Stephens' play, directed by Sarah Frankcom, is in some ways a modern Jacobean tragedy. It is concerned with the dangers and joys that result from the hopes we invest in other people. It is a gripping and thought-provoking drama that deserves to be seen by as big an audience as would tune in for a soap opera.

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Why? Powerful drama features soap opera star
Phone: 0161 833 9833
Where: Royal Exchange St Annís Square Manchester
Cost: From £10
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