I LOVE going somewhere new and nothing takes me more places than fringe theatre.
Last Friday night it was the turn of Salford Arts Theatre and Two in a Bed Theatre Company’s Hold Me Close.
The theatre company, isn’t new to me having seen their work before at The Kings Arms a couple of years back: Review: Frozen Peas in an Old Tin Can (Greater Manchester Fringe)
Wow, isn’t it weird how thanks to COVID any past event is pretty much a couple of years ago+.
And so to Hold Me Close.
“Back in his childhood home in Bolton after several years, David (named after Mr Essex himself) finds himself realising he’s a lot more like his mum than he ever thought he was. While drinking whiskey, peeling potatoes and playing dominos, can they both rekindle the mother and son love they once had back when he was just a little kid?”
Written and directed by Joe Walsh, produced by Owen Murphy and performed by Deborah Sekibo (Coronation Street) and Jake Talbot (Drowning), the two-hander is 60 minutes of real-time tussling between mother and son at the kitchen table with occasional departures to make a ham butty or dance to Brotherhood of Man.
You’re already getting kitchen sink drama aren’t you (don’t tell the other genres will you, but that’s my favourite).
And it was.
Reading the premise, I braced myself for accusation, counter-accusation, bitterness, barracking, regret, counter-regret, and whilst ready to lap it all up, wondered if a Friday night out was about to feel a whole lot more…I don’t know, Tuesday (which to be fair are fine too, just a bit dark).
But thanks to the authenticity of the writing and performances, Hold Me Close was more than your average parent vs offspring back and forth . Ding ding, round 1…
I love you
I hate you
You did this
Because you did that
No, it was a tapestry of the light and dark. And it was funny with touch-points of the contemporary too.
You see, David’s not just been away from home, he’s been living his best reality show TV life in Ibiza, bagging himself the holy trinity of cash prize/shortlived showmance and rehab stint to boot.
David’s vices lived out on TV, mum’s drinking lived out behind close doors.
She doesn’t drink anymore (of course she drinks anymore), but together mother and son drink, dance and domino together as they fondly recall scenes from a childhood and less fondly scenes from a drug overdose.
And we laughed until we suddenly didn’t. And you could have heard a pin drop in Salford Arts Theatre.
Because just as I was thinking, this has been 50 minutes of fantastically acted dialogue between mother and son which has resisted hysteria and over the top melodrama whilst retaining depth and doses of darkness, all the while heading to a quiet resolution (yes I think in overly long descriptive summaries) …things were taken to another level.
And I’m tussling over whether I go over all spoiler.
Results are in. I won’t (message me and I’ll tell you if you like) because when performed again I want you to see it for yourself and feel the sucker punch I did.
Standing ovation deserved.
To read more about Two in a Bed and all projects past, present and future , head to their Facebook page.
More information on Salford Arts Theatre can be found on their website.
Production/rehearsal photo credits – Shay Rowan
(Others – author’s own)