53Two, Manchester; Tuesday 28th November 2017
Twenty years after they first formed and took Sexual Perversity in Chicago on tour, NRG Theatre celebrate their anniversary at Manchester’s 53Two by returning to their roots with a new production of a different David Mamet play.
The Shawl is a short but punchy theatrical thriller that concludes with multiple plotline cliff-hangers which both infuriate and delight. This is a tale of deceit and lies as a pair of no-good charlatans attempt to hustle money out of a grieving lady who is yearning to re-connect with the mother that she misses so much.
Former Brookside star Andrew Fillis plays John – a rather sinister, mind-reading con artist who teases and tantalises with his supposed ability to talk to the dead. Oozing charisma and charm, Fillis portrays John as a smartly dressed and perfectly polite gentleman who knows exactly how to exploit the vulnerable whilst presenting an otherwise innocent facade – the perfect positive feedback loop that appears to get him what he wants.
Alongside the smooth and sophisticated John is the more restless Charles, played by Chris Taberner. Charles is the impatient and frustrated lover who just wants to start making some money. Battling to navigate around his older partner’s more devious methods, Charles just hasn’t got the exploitation skills that he needs, and he knows it.
And then there is the victim, the mysterious Miss A played wonderfully by Eve Shotton as a very prim and proper lady who wears nice dresses and sensible shoes. However, initial feelings of sympathy towards her soon subside as she gets pulled further into the devious vortex created by the scheming clairvoyant that she’s paying to see – this is a woman with a major gullibility issues.
But then, in amongst all the lies and the deception – just as it seems that the susceptible Miss A is about to be fleeced – she plays her trump card and dares to expose her mind-reading antagonist as a fraud, only for him to respond with a show-stopping retort involving a mysterious shawl…
With intense scenes of dialogue being exchanged in flickering candlelight as passionate attempts are made to communicate with the dead, The Shawl represents a dizzying hour of conundrums and moral puzzles that ask the audience to repeatedly consider who is lying and who is telling the truth, and ultimately to consider who is right and who is wrong.