I’ve written my love letter to fringe theatre before and my opinion never changes. I love you all, theatre concepts, venues, genres…but fringe is definitely a head turner for me…
Apart from the opportunity for writers to write and actors to act with a no holds barred emotional, brave and raw approach to the subject matter, it also takes you to venues in your city you’ve never been to before.
In this case it was The Peer Hat on Faraday Street. I grow tired of articles listing the ‘hidden bars’ in Manchester that basically are not hidden. They just aren’t the moment you tell us they are. And the moment they become part of said list, their mystique is broken. I get the irony of me writing about one. But I consider my blog to be ‘hidden’ enough to get away with it…
Back to the play (but with a meer soupcon of still signposting to a great venue), The Same Rain that Falls on Me is part of this year’s Greater Manchester Fringe.
Written by Logan Jones, performed Maria Cook (alternate performances from Ella McKeown) and from fledgling company, Autumn Theatre, the press release asked us to ‘witness a powerful and witty monologue about family and grief’.
Well it delivered on every element. I’m slipping into ‘all about me’ territory, but how a piece of art makes you feel is the point. Yes you can appreciate good craftmanship, entertainment, hard work, even, but when it resonates with you and provokes an emotional reaction, it speaks to you on a whole other level.
Here comes the me me me bit but I promise to keep it brief.
When I moved out from my family home to Manchester (the start of my honorary Mcr citizenship, if you like), it coincided with my dad becoming ill. I started work in Manchester in the April, moved officially in the December, lost my dad in the February.
There were journeys home, then journeys to the hospital and finally a journey to the funeral home. I missed my goodbye, something that I’m still coming to terms with, and experienced how we as a family (my mum and siblings) came to terms with our own grief, both collectively and individually.
(Back to the play), Alice receives ‘two calls and a text’ calling her home, where her terminally ill father is ending his battle with cancer.
We go with Alice on the train journey home, the reunion with her mum, brother, sister-in-law and cherished niece, Autumn.
Actress, Maria, delivered the wonderfully, witty words on stage with such a natural and heartfelt delivery that I almost forgot to think about myself and the parallels I was witnessing. In fact, I’ll take that back and say that it was because of the natural performance that it took me back 20 years so starkly. Transfixed, I found myself wanting to ask questions, ‘how old is Autumn’, ‘how do you feel about missing the ‘official goodbye’, ‘why did you pick geography over history in your humanities options, I could never get on board…’? and so on and so forth.
With the most simple of sets, a wooden chair serving as an eyeline/substitute for another character and, well, as a chair, there was nowhere to hide in this performance.
In this intimate space, we watched as a young woman struggled with family dynamics, her life choices to date, her regrets, her feelings about being loved and loving others and most of all her pending and actual loss, and we laughed and fell silent in equal measure.
But we left that brilliant little venue tucked away in the Northern Quarter (it may be ‘hidden’ but Google maps will have you there in a jiffy), with much to ponder and appreciate both about the piece and our own lives.
The ultimate gift from the arts to ourselves.
To read more about Autumn Theatre, visit https://www.facebook.com/AutumnSameRain/?ref=py_c
Not falling for telling you exactly where The Peer Hat is…
The full Greater Manchester Fringe programme can be found at https://greatermanchesterfringe.co.uk//