Port* (National – Lyttelton, 6 March 2013)

Posted: March 7, 2013 in Theatre

Anyone seeing this production through to the end (which, at this performance, was far fewer than took their seats at the start) could be forgiven for ranking Stockport second only to the Black Hole of Calcutta as the bleakest location in the history of civilisation. Repeated explicitly throughout, this is the play’s sole message as it follows a small group through 14 years (1988-2002) of their teenage and young adult lives. No doubt this message is as welcome to the Greater Manchester Tourism Board as it is of interest to theatre audiences on London’s South Bank. This is an evening of almost unbroken gloom and tedium, defamatory to what is probably a very decent town and, still worse, to the great drink that shares the play’s name. The characters are stereotypes, human themes are under-developed, and the dialogue is completely lifeless. To be fair, a great deal of dialogue in some scenes is indecipherable from halfway back in the stalls, highlighting the question as to why the National decided to put this small play onto the Lyttelton’s huge stage. In playing teenagers, some of the actors seem to be mimicking Catherine Tate and Matt Lucas, but, unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing in the play that is intentionally funny. Any positives? Well Kate O’Flynn is on stage throughout, ageing from 11 to 24 and it is her stamina and some slick staging that earn the production its solitary star. Otherwise, this is a resounding dud.

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