REVIEW: Shed Exploded View

Royal Exchange, Manchester

The concept is relatively simple, following the lives of three couples over a 30 year period. But the reality is anything but.

The audience are taken back and forth in time, often at a mesmerising pace; the dialogue sparks, tempers flare, emotions run high.

Welcome to the world of Shed: Exploded View winner of the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting.

The Bolton News: Norah Lopez Holden (Abi) in Shed: Exploded View (Picture: Johan Persson)

This is grown-up theatre for a grown-up audience. It's heartbreaking, at times brutal, intensely moving and is totally captivating.

It is an astonishing piece of writing by Phoebe Eclair-Powell. But without the right cast it could so easily have ended up as a car crash.

Under the guidance of director Atri Banerjee, the performers entrusted with this new work carry it off with aplomb. The Bolton News: Hayley Carmichael (Lil) & Wil Johnson (Tony) n Shed: Exploded View (Picture: Johan Persson)

Hayley Carmichael and Wil Johnson are Lil and Tony, the older couple; Lizzy Watts and Jason Hughes, Naomi and Frank and Norah Lopez Holden and Michael Workéyè, Abi and Mark.

Abi, we discover is Naomi and Frank's daughter and Lil and Tony meet Naomi and Frank on honeymoon. But is it not just family ties or a hotel encounter which connects the three couples. All are facing the challenges of modern life.

The use of dialogue in the play is what sets it apart. As we move backwards and forwards in time - a tip, keep your eyes on the screens which flash up the year, it helps you get your bearings -the same phrases will be repeated by different couples on different occasions.

Read also: 'Every line means something' says Wil Johnson

At times more than one character will say the same line but each conveying a totally different meaning. This is naturalistic dialogue at its finest. Sentences don't get finished; thoughts get interrupted - it all adds to the very human nature of the performances.

It's difficult to go into detail as it would be wrong to give too much away. Suffice to say the topics covered included infidelity, abuse, insecurity, love, ageing and loss. But really it's about being human and how well or how badly we cope with that.

Every character is beautifully observed from Lil the stoical nurse to Abi who grows from playful child to troubled victim.

The Bolton News: Lizzy Watts (Naomi) in Shed: Exploded View (Picture: Johan Persson)

Wil Johnson turns in a performance that at one point is almost too heartbreaking to bear while Lizzy Watts will strike a chord with every parent in the audience.

The sparse staging, stark lighting and an eerie soundtrack all add to intensity of the piece. The stage itself, a series of concentric circles which slowly revolve in different directions add to the feeling of dislocation. It also doubles as a giant chalkboard, characters effectively adding sub headings to different scenes as it goes on.

This is a production which stays with you long after it has ended. Initially it might be a little confusing but stick with it and the rewards are immense.

Until Saturday, March 24. Details from