There are many times I’ve been to the theatre (literally and conceptually – not all plays take place on the stage), when I’ve thought ‘what a brilliant production, what a great story, what an excellent ‘play’ this is.’
And then there are times when I’ve left the idea that I’m at a play far behind and been drawn into the world before me on another level.
Seeing Tuesday by Studio ORKA, a Belgian company of hugely acclaimed actors and designers, was one of these rare occasions.
Performed in St Augustine’s, a Grade 1 listed Victorian church in Pendlebury, Salford, Tuesday tells the tale of an older man who looks back on his life, following his abandonment by his mother.
I baptise you Tuesday, he said, because I found you on a Tuesday – from now on, the most beautiful day of the week.
Tuesday (Titus de Voogdt) is brought up by the widowed Nester (Dominique Van Melder), along with son, Rene (Robrecht Vanden Thoren) who found him as a baby in the church where Nester works, and where the play is set.
Occasionally we see glimpses into the outside world through the church doors as people come and go, whilst Tuesday, from childhood to man, 1945 to present day, remains in his sanctuary.
We first enter the story with Tuesday, now a man clearly in his dotage, preparing for the funeral of Nester. Arriving early to the funeral, an elderly lady listens to Tuesday practise his eulogy, his own life story soon playing out before our eyes.
A mainstay of the story are Funeral Director, Benedicte (Tania van der Sanden) and daughter Stella (IIse de Koe) together with all aforementioned players forming one fairly happy, dysfunction not withstanding, family.
The tale is magical. So drawn in, I soon forgot I was in a church watching a play set in a church. I was just in their world.
There are books, films, productions that never quite leave you. Those which you may, perhaps, watch every year at Christmas, which embrace you and reach out to your inner child.
This is one such production. The characters are funny, human, warm, flawed, vulnerable, loving and likeable. The musical contributions, interludes, punctuations, delivered by the rather wonderful Studio ORKA chorus, are immersed into the story seamlessly, never awkwardly (I’m not a fan of the traditional musical where everyone breaks into song for no apparent reason in a toe-curlingly cringey way).
There is a sequence towards the end where accompanied only by the piano, Tuesday silently moves around his church/world/home, taking us all round the ‘set’, coming in and out of view, up and down ladders with an acrobatic grace which was incredibly moving, poignant and spine-tingling.
The tale is one of togetherness, finding comfort in those we love however those paths meet, and all those little events, experiences, seemingly unremarkable moments which make us who we are.
In short, I wish I could visit Tuesday’s world once a year as everyone needs a little magic, comfort and reminder once in a while of what life is all about.
I know, I know, twee – I’m being twee.
But I bet I’m not the only one over the course of the run that entered church to see a play and left feeling like they’d just been given a huge, lovely bearhug, care of Studio ORKA and Manchester International Festival.
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