Review: Another Northern Man
Image: Hope Theatre
Andrew Murton - Noel
Justin Stahley - Phillip
A white-knuckle ride of purpose and pride.
"Go and rebuild your life, your family, your career.
Maybe have a shave.
How about that?
However, if you continue with this vitriol towards me, I will dismantle you."
Grief-stricken Noel turns to therapist Phillip for answers after the death of his hero.
When their relationship falters, suspicions grow and the truth becomes lost to obsession.
Written by Paul Kelly and straight from a breathtaking premiere at the INK Festival 2017, Another Northern Man is a white knuckle ride of purpose and pride.
Another Northern Man is the INK Festival's 3rd London transfer.
INK Festival nurtures and champions new short scripts by emerging and established writers, with an East Anglian connection.
On Sundays and Mondays, The Hope Theatre reserves space in its schedule for work that might not be quite ready for a longer run.
That might be for one (or more) of a number of reasons - for example to try out some new work with an audience, or to give new companies their first foothold in the theatre world in an economical way.
But don't think for a moment that the quality of these productions is any less polished, professional or interesting than the main, longer runs at The Hope.
This particular play amply illustrates the kind of work on offer in these slots - and it's a little cracker.
The plot starts off with a scene most of us will recognise, even if we've never experienced it personally - a private consultation between a therapist and his client.
But an early u-turn in the relationship between the two men involved means it's not easy to describe how events develop without giving away the surprises which are in store, both early on in the action and at the very end.
Andrew Murton's Noel is a blunt, brooding northerner who is seeking to come to terms with the death of his father - his 'hero' - helped by therapist Phillip (Justin Stahley).
As we join the consultation almost at the start of their 'professional' journey together, things are obviously not going quite according to plan with Noel reluctant to open-up and seemingly hostile towards his therapist.
So much so that, before long, Phillip declares that he can't help Noel and asks him to leave.
But Noel, the more physically stronger of the two men, is going nowhere and takes matters forcibly into his own hands as he seeks to examine Phillip's role in his father's medical treatment during his former work as a nurse practitioner on a hospital psychiatric ward.
Thus, the balance of power between these two very different, well-defined and well-distinguished characters shifts considerably, and it shifts back again later as Phillip recovers his composure and starts to question how Noel reacted to his father's illness and time in hospital.
Two admirable and highly watchable performances, married with tight direction from Susan Raasay, keep this play bubbling with realistic and intriguing dramatic twists and turns throughout.
It actually turns out to be a much more complex piece than it initially appears.
Though Noel wants to make Phillip a scapegoat, we learn how procedures load bureaucracy onto professionals caring for patients in hospitals, and also how the lack of funds impact on that care.
But this is also a play about apportioning and accepting blame, and responsibility.
Like many other situations where human interactions are involved, there are opposing views and attitudes on display here which force us to, at least consider, taking sides.
Furthermore, in Noel we find a man who, at least in Phillip's assessment, is living in the past, being unable or emotionally unwilling to change with the times, leaving us to ponder on modern day masculinity.
Paul Kelly's stimulating and thoughtful play leaves us guessing and uncertain, but there's more than enough dramatic and emotional meat to make for an engrossing hour's theatre.
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ActDrop listing for Hope Theatre
Our show listing for Another Northern Man
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