Monday, 17 September 2018

REVIEW: The Distance at the Park Theatre

Distance by Alex McSweeney is an intense, dramatic experience as we follow the journey of Steve on an express train to Manchester Piccadilly station and through a series of flashbacks begin to understand his mental illness. It is moving , thought provoking and a cry for help for all those who suffer from such illness and have contemplated suicide. The shocking statistics that suicide is the biggest killer of under 45's in the UK and that 75% of all UK suicides are male provide the context to the new play.

We meet Steven, played with a frightening intensity by Adam Burton as he jumps from the top of a building and then quickly reset to the train journey that preceded that moment. Here he meets an old friend, Alan (Abdul Salis) who he discovers is on the train for the same job interview . After their initial awkward meeting , Alan can sense something is not right, but initially is more concerned about his preparations for the interview. Steven is intellectually superior and better researched but he willing helps Alan. 

The play is cleverly set by Bethany Wells with a central railway carriage window and projected scenery flashing by which swiftly changes to images in his mind and flashbacks to his past in a cafe with his wife and his own small flat after she throws him out. The lighting design by Dan Saggars use tight spots and cross lighting to create changes in locations and an ethereal feel as we start to see what Stephen is thinking and remembering his chaotic family life. The track above allows the window to be swivelled around to swiftly change scenes. Occasionally the use of two window frames is disconcertingly confusing almost like we are seeing multiple dimensions of the same scene.

The arrival on the train of a strange Welshman , the Duke, played with a serene
calmness by Richard Coogan is eerily spiritual as if he in Stephen's mind too, although Alan can see him too as he gently sings of Codeine and wanting to die to kill the pain. These central three men are supported by Lindsay Fraser as his disapproving wife Sonja with whom Steven has a heart tearing row in front of his off stage son Jasper and Doreene Blackstock as Folami, the Christian too scared to answer his calls for help. 
This is a visually stunning production with slick projection , smooth tension building direction and movement, brilliant moving disturbing performances and a strong message that calls for someone to answer the cry for help from these young men suffering from mental illness.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Unreserved Stalls B | Price of ticket: £18
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