‘Even in the darkest moments, a genuine belly laugh is never far away’: THE NEWSPAPER BOY – Manchester ★★★★

In Manchester, Opinion, Plays, Regional theatre, Reviews by Kristy StottLeave a Comment

53Two, Manchester – until 24 February 2018
Guest reviewer: Daniel Shipman

First of all, congratulations to Queer Contact on a hugely successful tenth-anniversary festival. Manchester is home to some brilliant queer performance – of which The Newspaper Boy is just one example – and Contact is doing a stellar job of bringing this to a wider audience.

Set in 1992, the play tells the story of Christian (Daniel Maley) who lives with his single mother Sharon (Samantha Siddall) and is frequently visited by his grandmother Jean (Karen Henthorn).

Aged 15, Christian lands a role on the nation’s favourite soap opera and begins exploring a hedonistic lifestyle with his castmate Mandy (Hollie-Jay Bowes) and her foster brother, 21-year-old Max (Sam Retford). Christian develops a relationship with Max which causes scandal in the national newspapers and rocks Christian’s home life and his career.

The play engages with themes like the difficulties of coming out and homophobic legal inequality, especially in the age of consent (which was not equalised until 2000). Forgive me if that sounds like a heavy night at the theatre, it is quite the opposite.

Chris Hoyle’s writing ensures that the play balances these themes with the perfect amount of humour. Even in the darkest moments, a genuine belly laugh is never far away. Hoyle’s eye for the mannerisms of working-class Manchester is outstanding. Simon Naylor’s direction is strong, and the use of the ensemble to establish the hectic set of a soap opera works particularly well.

My main criticism would be the almost total disappearance of Max and Mandy in the second act. It is interesting to see the effect that being forcibly outed by national newspapers has on Christian, but I longed to see what effect the story had on Max as well.

Despite disappearing in the second act, special mention must go to Bowes who turns Mandy from what could have been a spoilt, irritating character into an absolute joy to watch. Bowes makes the most of every line and it results in some glorious moments. Similarly, Henthorn transforms the character of Jean from stereotypical nana to a source of both humour and heart in the production.

All in all, The Newspaper Boy is a gripping story, well written and featuring a host of brilliant performances. What more could you ask for?

 

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Kristy Stott
Kristy Stott, editor of Upstaged Manchester, is an entertainment journalist, theatre critic and general arts lover. Kristy has been an avid follower of the Manchester theatre scene for as long as she can remember and has written for WhatsOnStage, the Library Theatre Company and Cornerhouse Manchester. Kristy is also news editor and presenter for Trafford Sound community radio.
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Kristy Stott on FacebookKristy Stott on RssKristy Stott on Twitter
Kristy Stott
Kristy Stott, editor of Upstaged Manchester, is an entertainment journalist, theatre critic and general arts lover. Kristy has been an avid follower of the Manchester theatre scene for as long as she can remember and has written for WhatsOnStage, the Library Theatre Company and Cornerhouse Manchester. Kristy is also news editor and presenter for Trafford Sound community radio.

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