The Roundabout

What must it be like to see theatre for the very first time in the Roundabout? Pitched in the middle of a park, it’s a bit like a small big top except that’s it’s yellow and hemispherical. You enter down a dark entrance to the side of the stage and there is anticipation, then you’re hit by the closeness to the action, the vibrant colour of the seating, the haze and the lights. The actor standing in the middle of the stage that you may have to walk across to get to your seat.

I’ve seen three plays now in the Roundabout, from Paines Plough and The Lowry. Three years ago, Lungs, outside the Lowry in the large concrete precinct beside the shopping centre (I think I described this location as fun rather than inclusive). Then this summer at Edinburgh Fringe my son and I watched Square Go in Summerhall round the back of an old vet school. Two actors enacted Kieran Hurley and Gary McNair’s amazing script about two young lads preparing for a fight outside the playground gates, complete with sprints around the seven metre diameter circular stage. That play also showed that you can do some pretty clever lighting in an enclosed and temporary space.

And now Island Town in Ordsall Park. Around the perimeter as you approach are trailing lights to lead you in. There is the sound of music and clapping as the previous event draws to a close. Generators purr and it feels like a microscopic music festival. It’s all quite surreal but really very lovely.

I watch Island Town. It’s not full, but Saturday night is a hard sell now. The play itself is set in a park which in itself makes it a perfect choice for this location. It’s about three teenagers who are stuck in a small town surrounded by fields, who define their space by the ring road. The play addresses the issue of staying put or getting out. Resigning yourself to the same life as your parents or trying to fight against it if you can. It’s bleak in places, and there is an inevitability about the ending, but we are told that at the start. Yet you can’t help but be drawn into this compelling and engaging play by the crisp and fluid acting, and the wonderful dialogue. Cleverly using both anger and humour, this is a play that weaves itself through your emotions and leaves you wondering what could have been done?

I hope a large part of the audience lived close to the Roundabout; after all this is the perfect way to introduce people to the theatre.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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