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The Gatekeeper – Manchester Royal Exchange

Posted by on 11/02/2012 • Categorised in Theatre

The Gatekeeper comes with a strap line – A painfully funny play about a family get-together falling apart.

Coming hot on the heels of a family Christmas for seven hosted in a mid terrace, I went expecting it to be like looking into a mirror.

I’ll set out my stall now. I loved this play. I loved it so much I’m asking for tickets for my birthday next week so I can go and see it again!

A much more sophisticated version of The Royal Family, the play is simply staged, taking place entirely in the sitting room and kitchen of a holiday cottage in the Lake District.

Award winning writer, Chloe Moss says that she hopes that he audience will get involved with the characters – “It isn’t an academic study of a family”. Well I did get involved. I even recognised their kitchen units!

This ‘self-made’ family have come together for career girl Stacey’s 40th birthday (played by Kate Coogan). Parents Julia (Tricia Kelly) and Mike (Ian Redford) are joined by brother Rob (Nick Moss) and his girlfriend Angela (Helen Carter). Over the next 2 ½ hours the layers are peeled away at a masterful pace. This is not a piece that plays all its cards up front. With more twists and turns than the Snake Pass, there is plenty to keep you off balance and on your toes.

The acting is excellent, with middle aged body popping and a singing into a hairbrush teenage Madonna routine worthy of Rude Tube. But as the drinks get harder, so do the truths.

I loved Tricia Kelly’s Julia as she got progressively sozzled and I loved Angela, the girl from the rough estate who turned out to be the sanest of the lot. She didn’t say much, but her questions and observations while disarming were razor sharp. She was the family’s mirror and she made them look at themselves.

While I didn’t entirely believe that school swot Stacey and “Chav” brother Rob shared the same DNA, as the play progressed I didn’t really care. It seemed that both characters had stood back to back as children and walked in entirely the opposite direction from each other, becoming the most extreme versions of themselves.

But wind back the clock and there’s a little girl who just wanted to fit in. And this for me is where it touched a nerve – I was the girl who was sent to elocution lessons to get rid of her Doncaster accent, when a Doncaster accent  was all that I wanted. You’ll know the bit when you go and see it.

However, the real star of the show was the script. The dialogue was fantastic and there were many laugh-out-loud moments. I would have included some quotes, but I can’t remember any. As soon as I’d remembered one, I was laughing at the next.

The Gatekeeper (which by the way is a type of butterfly) kept my attention for the entire time and as the play finally finished its emotional striptease with the cast collapsed on the sofa, dirty laundry thoroughly aired, the audience whooped.

Well done to The Gatekeeper – I really hope that this play is the success that it deserves to be.

The Gatekeeper is showing in The Studio at The Royal Exchange Theatre, St Anne’s Square, Manchester from 8th-25th February 2012.

Evening Performance Times Monday – Friday, 7.30pm, Saturday, 8.00pm

Matinee Performance Times Thursday 2.30pm and Saturday 4.00pm.

Ticket Prices £10 Adults, £7 Concessions, £5 Under 26s & Students

After Show Discussion Wednesday 22nd February

Box Office 0161 833 9833 / http://royalexchange.co.uk/bookonline

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