Multi Story/Multistorey

Monkeywood Theatre brought Multi Storey to Bolton, or more specifically the Octagon car park, as part of the excellent Reveal Season.  I like the work that Monkeywood produce, and I particularly like the writing of Andrew Sheridan and Sarah McDonald Hughes.  ‘Our work tells exciting and untold stories that are rooted in Manchester and the North West and offer a fresh take on the world.’ 

The trick to site specific theatre is to use the setting as a character, and produce something that would only work in the space.  Up on floor 7a of the Octagon Car Park, you can see across the whole of Bolton; the sun is shining but you imagine it could be windy.  It’s a location that suggests transience,  and an element of danger.  The company talk about ‘exploring loneliness, place and being on the edge’.

DSC_0198The piece starts slowly, Mandy appearing, looking for her lift.  Two brothers argue, one climbs on the roof structure, and the place becomes more threatening; you’re aware of the height.  A taxi driver strings elaborate tales, but warms to his passenger who has received no birthday cards.  They share a doughnut.  Mandy reappears and asks the female security officer to borrow her phone, making several calls.  A man looks over the edge and the security officer thinks he’s going to jump.  Their connection is fleeting.  Finally a mother arrives, torn between spending time with her family and a night out.   Mandy works to get £10 from her.  These are well worked stories which develop fascinating characters and reveal more about the place.  There’s always a threat, but in the end there’s also a feeling of the mundane, the everyday.  There is some beautiful writing in here.

This piece feels very real, at times you forget it’s theatre, and you’re watching real people in a Bolton car park.  The whole thing is put together well, there’s good pace, and the director makes excellent use of the unique location.  Scenes are well linked and the use of the repeating character ‘Mandy’ and the succession of anonymous silver cars creates a strong thread.  And actually, the way the audience are moved around is just right too; from my experience this is an element that makes or breaks site specific theatre.

Multi Story is well written, well performed, and fits perfectly into the car park where it is staged.  A piece of new writing that does something innovative and really does pull it off.

Multi Story ran from 20 – 22 June 2016.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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