53Two, Manchester; Wednesday 9th May, 2018
London in the swinging ‘60s: a restless young woman makes a life-changing decision – leaving everything she knows behind her she boards a train to Manchester in a desperate search for some sort of emotional spark that will make her feel truly alive. She finds it immediately as she gleefully twists and shakes her way into the infectious and vibrant world of northern soul.
Loop by Boxless Theatre is a story of exploration as three different generations of the same family find and adopt music as a guiding light in their journey through life.
Lucy Annable plays the mysteriously nameless lead role as The Woman. Nervous and apprehensive upon her arrival, a chance encounter with a smooth-talking charmer in a pub throws her deep into the heart of a new and exciting musical movement, one which stays with her for the rest of her life.
Fast forward twenty years and the music has changed but its power still remains as The Woman’s daughter unexpectedly finds her soulmate over a drunken conversation outside a nightclub. Fast forward again and The Woman’s grandson lifts his head away from his laptop to seriously consider the possibility that his chosen musical career may lie down south, in the very city that his grandmother left decades earlier.
Despite the name of the production company, Loop as a show is performed around four large black boxes which are used as props as well as part of the set. Constantly shifted and rearranged, these boxes serve in a multitude of roles: as the seats on a bus; as the carriages of a train; as the sofa where you sit and have an awkward first chat with your new girlfriend’s over-inquisitive mother.
The persistent use of these boxes results in a performance that becomes not only more physical but also much more abstract as time is spent on materialising the thoughts and emotions of the characters, as well as delivering the plot running in the background. Further unconventionality is added by the fact that all four cast members stay on stage throughout the show – even when not directly involved in a scene they become part of the background and scenery, holding out phones and handing cups of tea into the foreground action.
Loop is an innovative and refreshing attempt at crafting something different from a play that could otherwise easily have been delivered in a more conventional form. It tells more than a story about one family over three generations, this is a performance that touches on the very personal connections that all of us make with the music that defines our identities.
|Visual pleasure||The scene changes, particularly those hopping from one time era to another, were a little indistinct and not easy to comprehend. Heavy visual emphasis was on the four boxes that were used as set and props, which was fine as a concept but not quite enough to build a true spectacle aligned with the feel of the show.||2|
|Auditory pleasure||Plenty for music fans to enjoy, the whole show is studded with classics from the ‘60s and the ‘’80s. If anything it needed more, given the central role that music plays in the plot.||3|
|Architecture & Theme||A clever concept in terms of merging a conventional play with plenty of physical movement. The ending seemed to lack closure and emphasis, though this may be a deliberate ploy.||3|
|Artistic delivery||Excellent delivery from all four cast members, Aaron Price and Emily Costello particularly amusing as the bickering Boy and Girl from the 1980s.||4|
|Overall impact||Loop is a relatively fast-paced and energetic performance for something which actually explores deep and lingering concepts. The sudden jumps between different time periods were difficult to spot and comprehend, but overall it is an enjoyable experience, with the physical performance aspect helping to make this an example of theatre that stands out.||3|
|0||Detrimental – This aspect of the performance was so bad that it made the overall experience worse|
|1||Weak – This aspect of the performance was poor|
|2||Adequate – This aspect of the performance was perfectly acceptable, though nothing special|
|3||Good – This aspect of the performance was above average, it pleased in some way|
|4||Excellent – This aspect of the performance was much better than normal, it was impressive|
|5||Awe-inspiring – This aspect of the performance was exceptional, new boundaries were pushed.|