Parliament Square

Parliament Square by James Fritz is the third of the 2015 Bruntwood Prize winners to be performed at the Royal Exchange (Wish List, How My Light is Spent), and the first to be performed in the main space.  At first this seems an odd decision.  Wish List always struck me as a play that should have been in the main space.  This play appears to operate on a smaller, more intimate scale, opening with two young women, Kat and her inner voice, circling each other.  The set is sparse, just a few bedroom effects.  But this is a play that draws you right into the world and the theatre seems to shrink in front of you; the round becomes incredibly intimate.

The play is split into three acts, titled fifteen seconds, fifteen steps, and fifteen years.  This gives the play a strange but largely effective variation in pace.  All the way through the first act, in which Kat makes the journey to Parliament Square, we ask ourselves whether she would do this thing if she knew the consequences for herself and her family.  I’m not sure the question is really fully answered.  Perhaps the question becomes, what would we do in the same situation?  During the after show discussion, a key theme was that there are absences and gaps in the play which we are meant to fill with what we bring to the play.  That this play represents the start of a dialogue that needs to happen.

The second scene is Kat’s recovery.  There are important themes of the human cost of getting better, relationships with families, and pain/struggle.  However, the style of the play is that nothing is tied neatly together.  In some ways this is frustrating, as Kat’s character is never fully clear nor consistent, and her decisions don’t always make sense.  It is the people around her that have objectives and norms and are rooted in their lives and values.  This is a play that continually asks questions, and perhaps Kat is a mirror to ourselves as much as a person in her own right.

Watching this play I really felt that for ninety minutes the Royal Exchange had become a New Writing Theatre.  There was an energy about this play, a willingness to take risks and play with form, that we don’t see often enough in professional theatre.

Royal Exchange Manchester, 18-28 October 2017.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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