In the car park of Manchester Communication Academy in Harpurhey, Belgian company Studio ORKA have constructed a bespoke enclosed set for their performance of INUK, a play that looks at loneliness and being forever on the move. This is part of Manchester International Festival’s year-round programme of engagement with new family audiences.

Carl owns a hotel that used to be an electricity station but is now empty, where he lives with handyman Ivan. Two strangers arrive, Nina, who is on the run from her family, and Johan, a travelling salesman of practical jokes. The well constructed and slightly surreal script fizzes with energy and humour; we can always relate to what is happening. The play deals with important topics for young people like loneliness, and it’s interesting that it was staged in the heart of a busy school where many young people have been able to see it over the preceding week.

This is a performance with many layers, strongly rooted in the European tradition of street theatre, where the trick is to control pace and emotion so that there is always something interesting happening whilst effectively constructing the long term narrative. The four performers develop exaggerated characters to bring huge energy to this stage. It’s a play that isn’t afraid to explore very dark themes but at the same time humour is used well to show us that it is the human element that is always most important.

Critical to the overall impact is the design, both visual and technical. Incredible attention to detail brings the faded spirit of the hotel lobby to life. Special effects are used superbly to create powerful electrical flashes and set the scene for the storm that is taking place during the first part of the play.

It was one of the hottest afternoons of the year, yet this was an audience that was fully engaged. To bring theatre of this quality to people who may not have experienced anything like it before is such an achievement.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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