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Manchester theatre reviews

M by Vertigo Theatre

'M' by Craig Hepworth and Adele Stanhope

Produced by Vertigo, Performed at Three Minute Theatre

Reviewed by Yvonne Cawley January 2013


It is always a pleasure to return to Manchester’s Three Minute Theatre, with its welcoming and intimate atmosphere – just like going home and getting comfy in your favourite armchair waiting for the main feature to start on telly. Only, a trip to 3MT is an experience that you can never achieve (or only dream about) on your 3D HD TV, as with M by Vertigo is a real, in your face action and drama drawing you in and making you part of the whole event.


The play ‘M’ by Craig Hepworth and Adele Stanhope, billed as ‘a homage to trashy thrillers of the 90s from Cruel Intentions to Basic Instincts plus tipping its hat to the old stage thrillers’ was a treat for sure. What I was expecting from the promotional blurb was a kind of slap stick, tongue in cheek and funny plot with a storyline basically made up from snippets of various old movies. What I actually witnessed was an extremely sleek and beautifully ‘executed’ production with wonderfully worked plots (and oh yes we were treated to a whole host of these).


Everything about this play was exquisite from start to finish, although early on in the first act that some of the lines were delivered rather too quickly and could have benefitted from some more dramatic pause for effects. This is only a minor point, for as the play progressed, and the actors settled in and relaxed a little more, the lines were perfectly delivered with expert comic timing.


We had shocks, suspense, an abundance of humour and a whole cast of intriguing characters that morphed alongside the twisting plot, bringing it to a final crescendo. Basically an ‘oh well I never saw that coming’ ending which will also apply to those who have seen a previous production a few years ago, because Craig and Adele have painstakingly unpicked and re-ravelled the plot and ending!


Adele Stanhope: Writer, Director and MThe story revolves around 2 siblings, Tony (Richard Allen) and M (Adele Stanhope), who after their parents die are left a huge amount of money and earn notoriety on the Manhattan social scene. Tony, despite his wealth is portrayed beautifully and utterly convincingly as the more sensible and grounded of the siblings. M on the other hand is cold, calculating and utterly devious, with no feelings (it seems) for anyone other than herself or her public persona of ‘butter wouldn’t melt’. Adele Stanhope who co-wrote and directed the play, delivers an incredible performance of the extremely cruel and manipulative character M, who as the plot thickens, manages to convincingly depict a totally different side to her character.


We are introduced to Mark (Rick Carter), boyfriend to one of the siblings, but little is known about his past or his current intentions and as the play progresses the waters become increasingly muddied. Rick provides us with a fantastic portrayal of Mark, showing us numerous sides to this complex, driven, sexy and intriguing character. David Degiorgio plays Sam, M’s long suffering husband, driven to drink by his cruel, controlling wife. This is a wonderful portrayal of a man on the brink, who suffers daily humiliation by his overbearing wife; quite excellent. Nathaniel Hall plays Sebastian, a friend of the siblings, who delivers some great and outrageous one liners with perfect comic timing, add this together with his wonderful “what me, what did I say!!” facial expressions and it makes for a likeable and funny character.


Mark Hill gave us a great display as the funny and slightly unorthodox Detective; to me a mix between Columbo and a Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell (Inspector in the Joan Rutherford Miss Marple films). His timing was great and he stood out, not just because he had the only English accent either! Ciara Tansey delivers a first class performance as Catherine, the rather loud, friend to the siblings and Sebastian, with her disastrous love life a constant source of amusement for all, but she takes this on the chin, and continues with her quest for love. Ciara delights the audience with some extremely funny and wonderful scenes and I can’t believe this is her first professional production as she seemed so at home on the stage, making ‘Catherine’ her very own.


The scenes moved seamlessly with the aid of perfectly accompanied music, eerie, almost TwinPeak-esque, but with an unmistakable thriller and suspense feel to it. I was taken aback by the intensity of some of the scenes, both intimate and brutal, especially the fight scenes – and some of those slaps and grapples must have hurt! The impact of these scenes which were unbelievably realistic, were heightened I think by the intimacy of the Three Minute Theatre itself, which really does make the audience feel as though they're witnessing something quite special.


I absolutely loved this production but it wasn't without its frustration though, although I hasten to add this was to do with my own inability to work out ‘who did it’ thanks to the quality of the script! The twists and turns of the plot, which were beautifully worked and I loved the parts where M and Mark taunted each other with their ‘one up-man-ship’ skills with delicious deviousness, really were extremely well crafted and disguised. There are a whole host of things I want to write about particular scenes in the play, but fear that by doing so would give the plot away, and I don’t want to spoil it for you. This is a definite 'must see' play and I came away feeling that I had just witnessed something rather special. A great night out for anyone who wants to be entertained and teased!

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