Review: Cracking

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Cracking, a circus adventure, shown on Friday the 15th of January at Lancaster Arts at Lancaster University, was a triumph. An original piece of writing by Lancaster University Alumni Emma Geraghty, co imagined by Abbie Jones and performed by the Lancaster University Theatre Group, has thus become a published book and it sure does deserve this credit.

The book is beautifully brought to life on stage. We are welcomed by three narrators (Josh Utting, Holly Gardner and Jack Maidment) each taking us through the story in a relax manner whist still showing glimpses of what feels like their own personalities, that you could relate to in one way or another.

We are presented with four currently unknown characters on various chairs and a small installation of a circus tent in the centre; all of this cocooned in a frenzy of story book pages. This staging was simple yet effective and really lifted the stories words off the page illuminating the huge black box space of the Nuffield Theatre.

Cracking tells a story from your perspective, with Liam Wells playing you, following your adventures with a travelling circus. Meeting circus leader Wolfe (Anna West), her dancer sister Hattie (Jess Turton) and former lion tamer Tinker (Luke McDonnell). The story has many twists and turns with characters revealing dark pasts and tarnished relationships.

With no physical action as such and characters directing all of their lines into the audience from their chairs, you only began to feel as if you are a great part of this novel. As if this is happening to you. You could perhaps suspect that this could make the piece a tad flat or lifeless but for this piece it completely worked and was necessary. Every cast member’s performance felt so sincere, presenting the fine words of Geraghty in a profound manner, allowing you to digest every word. I felt very moved by the piece and personally have never felt so involved in a tale without actually moving out of my seat.

The works clever structure also kept the piece engaging. From narrator’s large sections, to pieces of dialogue between two or three, these chapters were split up by speeches in spotlight corners to either side each discussing one of Wolfe’s tattoos. Each tattoo had a different story to tell and meaning behind it and really served as a great anger to the at times outspoken character. As well as acting as an interesting plot breaker.

I also can’t help but feel that perfect casting choices were made. Luke McDonnell’s mysterious yet thoughtful demeanour, Jess Turton’s sweet and heartfelt innocence, Liam Wells’ caring charm and Anna West’s loyal strength. Each character seemed to evolve layer after layer throughout the piece, testament to the writing, the narrator’s effective storytelling and the performances themselves. All within a subtlety required for the length of this performance.

After watching this piece I really hope the subsequent novel gets the response it deserves. The piece was not only heartfelt but it really was hilarious at times. Abbie Jones direction and performances from LUTG has allowed many to experience Geraghty writing in a whole new life and it really makes me happy that a collaboration like this has happened. I hope similar things can happen in the future. On a final note, it’s fair to say Cracking really was- Cracking.

You can buy the book the play was based on, also written Emma Geraghty, here: http://www.blurb.co.uk/b/6806287-cracking

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