The Coliseum Theatre, Oldham; Saturday 2nd February, 2019
Deep in the placid suburbs of North Manchester, a festering family feud has pushed a pair of elderly siblings to the edge. Neither accepts responsibility for their brutal conflict and, as with most family feuds, neither seems to have a rational explanation for how it all started, or how it got so completely out of hand.
Writer Jimmie Chinn was born and raised in Oldham and the surrounding areas and so much of A Different Way Home is pure, unadulterated Northern-ness – a theme so strong in this performance that it feels as if it might just step off the stage in a flat cap and grey coat in order to make a curmudgeonly grumbling demand to be added into the taxonomy of recognised theatre genres.
Kenneth Alan Taylor delivers an acting masterclass in the lead role of Leslie – a rather timid and pitiful elderly gent who seems desperate to find any kind of meaning to life in amongst the otherwise mundane and sterile banality of passive suburbia. Amusingly, Taylor also plays the role of the sister Maureen, a slightly less downtrodden but still woefully hopeless character who seems to have a pretty good set of counter-arguments for all that her brother accuses her of.
The structuring of the performance is superb – two monologues are delivered, one by each sibling, separated by a well-timed interval. Content-wise it initially comes across a little too much like the extended murmurings of two grown adults feeling sorry for themselves and refusing to take responsibility, but there is also an underlying plot based on the events surrounding the death of the siblings’ mother and how each of them dealt with it.
The stage and scenery setting is so overtly drab that it exudes a strangely comforting charm, perhaps the kind of charm a young child might feel upon realising for the first time that grandma and grandad’s house really is just a little bit strange.
There are fine porcelain statuettes, a bone china dinner set that has never been used; at one point we’re even told that newspapers from the 1940s can still be found in the kitchen drawers. It may all be in desperate need of a Marie Kondo decluttering but everything about this house seems to be very precise and proper, it all seems so deeply rooted – just like the corrosive animosity between siblings Leslie and Maureen.
Both characters make regular curtain-twitching trips to the window – was that a knock on the door, did someone just open the garden gate? The answer is always a disappointing no, and so the introspective self-examination recommences.
Taylor’s performance is so good that despite the he-said she-said nonsense of it all, both characters develop enough in a short space of time to induce a huge feeling of sympathy. Both characters are clearly lonely and quite troubled by their experiences, particularly Leslie, Taylor’s delivery presents both monologues as a cathartic release for each individual, each of whom seems to recognise that things have gone too far.
A Different Way Home may, on the face of it, be a tale of everyday normality but it delivers two very deep, multi-faceted characters, each of which seem to develop over the course of the performance. What results is a powerful performance tinged with great sadness as a family is needlessly torn apart by stubborn misjudgement and false pride.
Photography: Joel Chester Fildes
|Visual pleasure||A wonderfully crafted set that genuinely created an experience akin to actually being in the front room of someone’s house.||3|
|Auditory pleasure||Delivered entirely as a spoken monologue with only the briefest of audio recordings. At times the silence was overwhelming, too often deflecting attention away from the stage and onto the rustling of the audience.||2|
|Architecture & Theme||Very well structured though the second half was notably superior to the first given its shorter duration and more concentrated delivery of story and character.||3|
|Artistic delivery||Stunning acting performance by Kenneth Alan Taylor giving both characters very deep and complex personalities – a key success factor in the overall interpretation of the show.||5|
|Overall impact||A very slow-paced night of entertainment built upon the development of character in order to create meaning and connection. Starts slowly but does eventually come to a slow, simmering boil.||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.|