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Theatre review - Lancastrians, Chorley Town Hall

PUBLISHED: 15:22 18 April 2019 | UPDATED: 15:37 18 April 2019

Natasha Patel, Matthew Durkan and Roberta Kerr in Lancastrians. Picture: Chris Payne

Natasha Patel, Matthew Durkan and Roberta Kerr in Lancastrians. Picture: Chris Payne

Archant

A luv letter to Lancashire, deftly crafted out of hours of conversation with 500 of its inhabitants, and edited into 80 minutes of lovingly-acted verbatim theatre.

Where else might you hear such homespun yarns – using brightly-coloured balls of unspun cotton to link many of the characters – than in the county that owes much of its heritage to the fine but resilient thread?

The play is taking its stories back to the half-dozen locations around the county where participants were interviewed late last year.

Director Liz Stevenson has skilfully woven the narrative out of rich reminiscence, sometimes dark despondency, but all with a hefty helping of native humour. A range of voices, ages and attitudes are all delivered by three consummate performers.

From teenage aspiration to elderly resignation: a one-time millworker recalls the din of the weaving sheds; a knit and natter group in Blackpool reckon they could solve the Middle East crisis. Someone loves Euxton, almost as much as someone else detests Skelmersdale. And casual racism creeps in wherever you are . . .

But when a violin-playing Iraqi asylum seeker sings the praises of Lancaster he plays directly upon your own heartstrings. His words are delivered by Roberta Kerr, a familiar character actor from the region's theatres, and one whose shape-shifting skills are matched here by fellow performers Matthew Durkan and Natasha Patel.

In an age of anxiety, brooding over Brexit, this play also reminds us that what unites us is always stronger than what divides us.

Liz Stevenson is one half of the siblings behind Chorley-based Junction 8 Theatre company, and at the age of just 29 is about to become artistic director of Keswick's Theatre By The Lake. Lancastrians proves she has her heart in the right place.

The banner above Chorley bus station proudly asserts that Lancashire is “the place where everyone matters.” Or should that be natters?

Lancastrians runs here until Saturday, then tours.

www.junction8theatre.co.uk

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