If modern life is rubbish with its shit discos, credit cards to clear and mates you secretly hate, then City living is sometimes even worse: Londoners dressed like schoolkids in their identical suits, a journey to work straight out of Dante and the endless competition for best home, best job and best girl.
Still, if it is getting you down too much, I can recommend a trip to the Actor’s Studio on Liverpool’s Seel Street this week to alleviate the pain a little by laughing along at the darkly comic tale of a man losing his heart to the machinations of a cheating girlfriend. ‘Heart’ is one of eight original one-act plays and two rehearsed readings being staged as part of the first annual Write Now festival, designed to showcase original works by writers from the North West.
‘Heart’ is ostensibly a story about one man’s quest to understand himself and Mike Idris as Johnnie brings a Jack Kerouac-like quality to his attempts to unravel the misfortune that has befallen him. What shines through is that while it may still be a man’s world, it would be nothing, nothing, nothing without the women. It is a distant cousin of all of those great Northern women that Julie Walters usually plays, who finds our hero at his lowest ebb and starts him on the road to getting his head back together, dishing out the kind of no-nonsense advice that always seems to get pushed aside in the rush to use more exotic means to find ourselves.
It is testament to the writing and to the skill of Emma Grace Arends, as variously, Joyce, Carrie, Trudy and ‘the Bohemian’ that, although the play shows us the familiar categories that men try to make women fit into, such as wife and mother-figure, as well as the fantasy types of nurse and dominatrix, the women of this story have a depth far beyond simple caricature. Chris Hitchen also displays an excellent range from over-friendly hairdresser to creepy bell-boy, also having to win back the audience’s affection after his turn as the object of Johnnie’s hatred from the opening moments of the tale.
Redemption so often lies in the arms of another, and the play is canny enough to both tug at the heartstrings while gently chuckling at the idea that ‘all you need is love’, so central to modern living. Will Johnnie’s quest see him end by living the boho dream on Lark Lane or will he be forever disheartened by the bling-loving friend-shagger he left behind? See the play before Saturday 3 April to find out…
Heart is directed by John Maguire, with graphic design by Chrissi Froud and Lighting by Jade Wells.
The other plays showing as part of Write Now are: The Dressmaker’s Gift, I’m Ed Caesar, The Guy’s A Monster, The Person Without, Pippin Hal, Seconds Out and Under My Skin. Everything Must Go and No Smoke are showing as rehearsed readings. More details are available here.