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Light Falls, with original music by Jarvis Cocker, Royal Exchange Theatre - Review

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by David Keyworth (subscribe)
Im a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester. keyworthdavid@gmail.com https://uk.linkedin.com/pub/david-keyworth/49/b3a/b83 My debut poetry pamphlet is available at www.wildpressedbooks.com/david-keyworth.html
Event: -
Waxing Lyrical
The house lights go down and Christine (Rebecca Manley) walks on stage to tell us about a visit to the Co-op in February.

In July, the Royal Exchange staged There Is A Light That Never Goes Out: Scenes from the Luddite Rebellion. Now that the clocks have gone back to Greenwich Mean Time, the theatre is producing Light Falls.

Manchester, theatre, Simon Stephens, Jarvis Cocker, Sarah Frankcom, Light Falls, Katie West, New drama
L-R Lloyd Hutchinson, Witney White, Rebecca Manley, Katie West & David Moorst - Image Manuel Harlan


It marks a welcome return to Manchester's theatre-in-the-round for playwright Simon Stephens. His last premiere at the Royal Exchange was Blindsided in 2014, which also featured Katie West and was directed by Sarah Frankcom.

Light Falls opens with some of the most poetic writing I have seen in a Simon Stephens' play. The mundane tale soon becomes a story of life and death.

From then on, Rebecca Manley is ever-present on stage but more as a watchful presence than a protagonist, as one scene fades out and another fades in.

As the action unfolds - multiple connections resonate with things Christine said in the opening monologue.

Bernard (Lloyd Hutchinson) is a wonderful comic-tragic creation reminiscent of the best of Alan Ayckbourn's character portraits. Lloyd Hutchinson conveys, in both movement and speech, the nervous edginess of a 57-year-old man still at the mercy of his appetites.

After a threesome in the Mercure Hotel, Doncaster, Emma (Mercedes Assad) says, by way of a backhanded compliment about his appeal: "You're not attractive but you're very sad and I like sadness in a man."

: Manchester, theatre, Simon Stephens, Jarvis Cocker, Sarah Frankcom, Light Falls, Katie West, New drama
L-R Carla Henry (Michaela), Lloyd Hutchinson (Bernard), Rebecca Manley (Christine, Victoria, Andrea, Claudie) & Mercedes Assad (Emma) - Image Manuel Harlan.


Tachia Newall as Michael and Witney White as Jess, touchingly convey a stop-start relationship, from first collision to its intimacies and dark revelations.

Manchester, theatre, Simon Stephens, Jarvis Cocker, Sarah Frankcom, Light Falls, Katie West, New drama
L-R Tachia Newall (Michael) & Witney White (Jess) - Image Manuel Harlan


David Moorst (recently seen in the film Peterloo) acts out, with Jamie Samuel, the highs and lows of young lovers groping towards an understanding of whether their bond goes beyond mutual physical attraction.

Manchester, theatre, Simon Stephens, Jarvis Cocker, Sarah Frankcom, Light Falls, Katie West, New drama
L-R David Moorst (Steven) & Jamie Samuel (Andy) - Image Manuel Harlan


It is good to see Katie West back at the Royal Exchange so soon after her last role - in There is a Light.

But her scenes with Freddie Gaminara as Joe were, for me, the hardest to take in. It was nothing to do with the quality of the acting or writing per se, but the tone of those scenes lacked the light and shade so finely balanced in the other pairings.

It is at the end of the play that Katie West really gets the chance to illuminate a different, more redemptive aspect to Ashe's character.

Katie West (Ashe) Freddie Gaminara (Joe) Manuel Harlan
L-R Katie West (Ashe) & Freddie Gaminara (Joe) - Image Manuel Harlan


Mention must go to Jack Knowles' lighting design which had to be spot on when the play has a title like this one.

It is a coup for the production to enfold Jarvis Cocker - as the creator of the shows original music. That said, music is not as interlaced with the action as in other productions I've seen at the Royal Exchange. It is the lyrics, set to folk-type tunes, which bring an extra celestial glow to the drama.

His line: "Stay in sight of the mainland" is a fitting motif for a new play which shines a torch on the eternal tension between following our own stars, whilst also feeling the pull of family ties and the tug of long-term relationships.

Manchester, theatre, Simon Stephens, Jarvis Cocker, Sarah Frankcom, Light Falls, Katie West, New drama
Rebecca Manley (Christine, Victoria, Andrea, Claudie) - Image Manuel Harlan

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Why? Jarvis Cocker and other Northern Lights at the Royal Exchange
When: 24 October - 16 November 2019
Phone: 0161 833 9833
Where: Royal Exchange Theatre, St Ann's Square, Manchester
Cost: Standard Tickets from 19. Concessions and discounts available.
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