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Held opens

Posted by Everyman Playhouse on 13th Nov 2012 at 17:30

The debut play of young writer, Joe Ward Munrow, Held is a production nurtured within the very walls of Liverpool’s theatres, conceived during Munrow’s time on the Everyman and Playhouse ‘Young Writers’ Programme, with an initial reading featuring in last year’s Everyword festival. Premièring on the 8th November, with many audience members in tonight having followed the project for what is now over a year, it was easy to detect the quickening anticipation in the air as eagerly awaiting eyes willed the stage lights to rise.

Described as a play that charts the ‘weave and weft of family life’, Held is the tale of two juxtaposing brothers, fruitlessly attempting to reclaim their mother from the grasp of dementia; yet of the three, whose memory actually serves them best? Can each of them possess a different truth, yet remain ‘held’ together in the present? Poignant and sensitive with touches of well placed humour laced throughout, Held forces its audience to consider some delicate questions, whilst simultaneously reflecting upon the complex design of each, individual human mind.

Liverpool favourite, Pauline Daniels, delivered a moving performance as ‘Mary’, smudging the lines between memory and reality, punctuating the action with fractured pieces of her own distorted recollections. Alan Stocks was the highly strung, middle class brother ‘Simon’, threatening to capsize the intimate Studio stage at times. Ged McKenna was excellent as the laid back ‘David’, whose talk of magnolia kitchens and induction hobs disguised his anxiety over the real topics he wanted to discuss, but in his own words, didn’t ‘really know how to start’ and the gradual decomposition of his cheerful bravado was interesting to watch.


Undeterred by the modest performance space, the set was a striking visual representation of the most prominent themes at hand; a huge accolade to designer Katie Scott, whose obtainment of the Playhouse Studio Design Graduate Prize proved well deserved. A large armchair dominates the stage, enveloped by soft, woollen like tendrils that reach and expand across the ceiling, alluding to the strands of a brain, gradually growing sparser as the memories become harder to recall. Faced by five expectantly empty pairs of plastic chairs, the accompanying set appears initially simple until director, Lorne Campbell, takes full advantage of its design in his clever use of staging.

The lighting was similarly successful in its aim to provide a strong visual assist to the narrative, interrupting the action sporadically with the snap of a bulb, the mimetic flash of an electron firing through the brain, indicating a sudden change in recollection or the beginning of an old memory for the perpetually confused ‘Mary’.

The Playhouse Studio’s predeceasing occupants, The Swallowing Dark and The Matchbox, both proved to be resounding successes and Held is sure to follow in their growing footsteps. A thoughtful, well written first piece, which engages intimately with its audience, Munrow is quite literally, one to watch.


Alecia Marshall
YEP Young Communicator


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