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Mr Monkey sees Blindsided at the Royal Exchange Theatre

Venue : Royal Exchange Theatre
Start date: 23th January 2014
End date : 15th February 2014
Visit date : 28th January, 2014
Mr Monkey trotted along to the Royal Exchange Theatre to see Blindsided.

Mr Monkey looking at the Blindsided poster
Before taking his seat, Mr Monkey scampered upstairs to the Mezzanine to see Manchester Reigns, an exhibition of photographs by Kevin Cummins.

Blindsided is Simon Stephens' fourth play to be produced at the Royal Exchange, which means he's had more plays on there than any other living UK playwright.

The play is about the corrosive relationship between a slightly odd teenage mother and an inexplicably attractive malignant young man. Their romance poisons her relationship with her mother, and his relationship with her best friend leads to an awful thing happening, and to redemption, of a sort, at the end of the night.

It's a challenging play which isn't likely to be to everyone's taste.

The stage set is a collection of concrete blocks which are used, without any other props, as streets, fields, a beach, and several houses. At times it's difficult to know where a particular scene is set, unless the actors say where they are. The set does offer special effects such as limited rainfall and isolating the central area with water to create the Isle of Man, and there is a splendid light show illuminating the theatre pod near the end.
1979 : Cathy (Katie West) and Susan (Julie Hesmondhalgh) (Royal Exchange Theatre production photo)
Blindsided is set in Stockport in 1979 but Mr Monkey could only tell because the characters said so; it could have been anywhere with concrete constructions and overspill estates. This was probably made worse by Mr Monkey contrasting Blindsided with the Exchange's previous production, That Day We Sang, which knew exactly where it was.

The barrenness of the setting and the deliberately non-naturalistic style of the dialogue produced a distancing effect that made it difficult for Mr Monkey to engage with the play.

Nevertheless the actors delivered good performances and kept the play interesting - Mr Monkey wanted to find out what happened. Katie West was good as the 1979 Cathy Heyer, and Julie Hesmondhalgh was excellent as the 1997 Cathy, but had less to work with as Susan Heyer (Cathy's mother) in 1979.

1997 : Cathy (Julie Hesmondhalgh) and Harry connolly (Andrew Sheridan) (Royal Exchange Theatre production photo)
While Mr Monkey didn't find Blindsided a wholly enjoyable evening out, he was intrigued by it, and is glad to see that the Royal Exchange are continuing to produce new plays as well new translations and new interpretations of established pieces.
Blindsided runs until 15th February 2014.

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