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Thursday, 9 May 2019

REVIEW: Floorboards at Newcastle Alphabetti


‘If enough people walk over a floorboard, one day it will crack.’

ODDMANOUT, The Worriers and Alphabetti Theatre present:
Floorboards
Newcastle Alphabetti Theatre
Until Saturday 18th May 2019

Newcastle’s Alphabetti Theatre is host to a well-crafted black comedy that is blessed with both Steve Byron’s sharply observed writing and a great cast. This wonderful nugget of theatre is available on the Pay What You Feel basis that the venue prides itself on proving that high quality theatre does not have to cost the earth.

The set comprises of a living room with bare floorboards. A rug is under the coffee table. The table, and floor, is covered in beer cans, take away containers and smoking paraphernalia. On the sofa are Nellist (Micky Cochrane) and his mate Hoggy (Malcolm Shields) watching the legendary Bob Ross on the television.

Did you ask who Bob Ross was? His programme The Joy Of Painting was a daytime classic for 11 years from 1983. He’d turn a blank canvas into an imaginative landscape using his oil paints. Fascinating stuff.

Indeed Bob has Nellist and Hoggy in rapture as he slaps the oils on. Then James (Steve Byron) appears having completed the night shift at a 24 hour petrol station. He is not happy with the sight before him, or the letter of complaint from his neighbours about the late night noise. After all it is his flat and whilst he has agreed for Nellist to stay there, it was only meant to be for one night – and that was 2 years ago. It is quickly apparent that Nellist is pushing his luck as he lives rent free, expecting James to keep him supplied in food and beer.

The play works well on at least 2 levels. The dialogue is believable. It feels like a natural conversation that you’d expect. You also relate to those on stage. It feels less like watching acting and more like a real situation. You feel empathy for James even when Nellist brings a former schoolmate Helen (Cheryl Marie Dixon) home and uses James’ flat as his own.

Director Katy Weir keeps the action feeling very natural, even when the local drug dealer Denise (Jacqueline Phillips) appears in quite dramatic fashion. Matthew Tuckey’s sound design worked well in this venue as you could tell when the music was coming from one end of the room or Bob’s voice from the other. Molly Barrett’s set comes into its own later on – but we’re not in the business of delivering spoilers here.

Whilst it is a dark piece with drug use, violence, swearing and bullying, it has a good number of humorous situations that had the Alphabetti audience reacting throughout. It had me laughing far move that the last so-called comedy that I saw at the cinema.

Steve Byron is able to get the audience onside as an ordinary bloke who is put on. This acceptance being crucial if the audience are going to enjoy the later stages of the story.

Micky Cochrane comes across as the dominant flatmate from hell in the same side. Malcolm Shields gets a number of laughs as his side-kick. The act of climbing down the “ladder” was such a great touch. Jacqueline Phillips has an air of business-like menace whilst Cheryl Marie Dixon’s Helen puts poor James in his place and yet is suffering inside. 

Running at about 2 hours plus an interval it is another example of high quality show that Alphabetti is building its reputation on. It just goes to show that you don’t need to blow a fortune on a good night at the theatre.

Review by Stephen Oliver
Photos: Steve Byron

Tickets:
Floorboards opens at Newcastle Alphabetti Theatre Tuesday 7th May 2019 and runs until Saturday 18th May (with no shows Sunday and Monday 12th/13th)

Show Begins: 7:30pm
Tickets: Pay What You Feel
Age Recommendation:14+
Running Time: 1 hour 30 mins, including interval

Theatre details: www.alphabettitheatre.co.uk  




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