New venue, new theatre company.  Hope Mill Theatre, a five minute walk from New Islington tram stop, is the latest addition to Manchester’s theatre scene, a flexible 120 seat space in a former cotton mill.  Play With Fire present their first production, Lyle Kessler’s Orphans.

Orphans is about two brothers, Phillip and Treat, who live alone in Philadelphia, but their dynamic is changed by the arrival of Chicago gangster Harold.  Similar in style to Fool for Love and Yen, this 1983 American play deals with issues that are as relevant today as when it was written.  How does violence and control fill the void left by the absence of love?  What does it take to acknowledge that you really need somebody?  It’s a beautiful piece of writing that works on your emotions.

Play With Fire’s production is outstanding.  There’s a wonderful pace, both in the snappiness of exchanges and in the way the play slows down for moments of reflection.  Intelligent direction from Alyx Tole makes excellent use of the well designed set, and develops the three characters effectively.  James Oates is a menacing but insecure Treat; Daniel Bradford captures Phillip’s confusion between obeying his brother and getting out; Shaun Hennessy balances the conflicting sides of paternal and manipulative Harold.  All are influenced by the absence of Phillip and Treat’s mother.  It’s one of those plays where what’s not said is as important as what is.

A very impressive first production from Play With Fire, of a little known but powerful and moving script.  Strongly recommended.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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