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Circles at Birmingham Rep Theatre - Review

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by Andy Coleman (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Birmingham. I like Classic Rock, 70s pop music, football and interviewing celebrities. Follow me on Twitter: @andycoleman9
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Powerful new play is just the ticket
The number 11 bus takes two hours and 25 minutes to complete its journey around Birmingham on the outer circle route, according to passenger Demi, one of the four characters in Rachel De-lahay's new play, Circles.

The production itself lasts for less than half that time but its brevity is one of its strengths. The script is taut, the characters are well drawn and the set is simple - but it still has a powerful message and a surprise twist.

Circles at Birmingham Rep
On the bus: Toyin Kinch (Malachi) and Danusia Samal (Demi). Pic: Graeme Braidwood

There are two parallel stories taking place. We see a pair of teenagers striking up a friendship on the number 11 bus. Malachi (Toyin Kinch) appears streetwise and sassy, while the object of his affection, Demi (Danusia Samal) has a sweet innocence about her.

Meanwhile, Angela (Sarah Manners) is seen visiting her mother, Phyllis (Janice McKenzie), supposedly because she was 'just passing' but it's really because she is the victim of domestic abuse.

Circles at Birmingham Rep
Squaring the circle: Janice McKenzie (Phyllis) and Sarah Manners (Angela). Pic: Graeme Braidwood

The stories are told in alternate scenes with the simple set of three chairs being rearranged first to represent the top deck of the bus, then a living room in Kings Heath.

Each scene is short and sharp, giving clues about how each strand may reach its conclusion - although I was completely wrong-footed with the plot twist on the bus.

The performances are first class. Janice McKenzie, whose TV credits include Emmerdale and The Royal, is super as the representative of the older generation. Her pithy comments, so well observed by Rachel De-lahay, are delivered perfectly.

Sarah Manners, best known from Casualty, is glammed-down as the down-trodden woman who wants to run away because she thinks the grass is greener elsewhere, in her case Wales.

Circles at Birmingham Rep
Alone: Danusia Samal (Demi). Pic Graeme Braidwood

For me, the play is at its most entertaining on the bus, partly due to the excellent work of Toyin Kinch and Danusia Samal. They really spark off each other.

I also liked the references to Birmingham's suburbs and landmarks. When the play is on tour I just hope the rest of the country appreciates their significance.
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Why? Short, sharp and to the point
When: Until May 24, 2014
Phone: 0121 236 4455
Where: Birmingham Repertory Theatre
Cost: 9 - 12
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