Theatre review - One Flesh; The Kings Arms, Salford
PUBLISHED: 13:41 02 March 2016 | UPDATED: 13:41 02 March 2016
Playwright Naomi Sumner directs her own work for the first time as she tackles two risqué subjects in religion and gay marriage combining the two in this new, hard-hitting, controversial play.
Despite the divisive theme in this new play, we are led gently into the storyline on arrival as the cast members play musical instruments and all sing songs of religious topics to ease us on this particular journey. A journey that we know will take many twists and turns along the way.
The group consists of three couples all at different stages of relationships. Caleb is happily married to Leah. They have two children together. He is the vicar of their local church and loves nothing more than to abide by Gods words and to lead those around him. His sister, Esther, is in love with Natalie, a relationship frowned upon by her brother and sister-in-law. Meanwhile, Dan and Hannah are preparing for their wedding and have the assistance of Caleb and Leah in the preparations as Dan bids to do God’s work and he aims to work his way up through the church. Life is relatively simple for all three couples until Esther announces to her brother that she plans to marry Natalie and would love nothing more than for her brother to, not only accept the marriage, but to give her away. This is an act that, by the bible, is not accepted and Caleb must choose between his family and his God as dedication to the bible becomes fraught when sin invites itself into their lives and their beliefs are put to the test.
Since same sex marriage was legalised in 2014 it has divided the opinions of the church. To write a play with both these themes involved, but also bring in the question of faith is a brave and bold move by writer/director Naomi Sumner, but one justified by the content and quality of the piece. The beauty of Sumner’s work is not only the astute nature of the depth of her writing, but in the way the story is played out. She has taken six pieces of string, for want of a better an analogy, taken those pieces of string and tied them in several knots as the complexities of the situations begin to show through. Her sheer determination to promote opinion questions religion in general and contradicts the word of the God as two people are in love and want to unite that love as the same bond that all other Christians have, despite that bond being with someone of the same sex. It is a message of love and devotion, but questioning which is the stronger – the love of a partner or the love of a God who can sometimes not hear our problems - forcing our hands into dangerous actions.
The ensemble responsible for bringing this wonderful script to life were quite honestly one of the best I have seen. Any performance that can render you motionless as you become transfixed and captivated by performances deserve the highest accolades. Any performance that momentarily make you forget you are watching a play and immerse you into the storyline are those of the highest calibre and this collaboration did just that. Seth Daniels portrayed the role of Caleb, a character torn between those he loves and forced to choose between the three in an expertly performed role. His wife, Leah, was played by Rachel Creamer who gave us a wonderfully strong performance of a wife and mother torn apart by her husband’s choices. Victoria Tunnah played Esther in a mesmerising enactment of the vulnerable young girl wanting to do right by her God and her brother, but is torn between the love of Natalie, played with warmth and grace by Fiona Organ. The wonderfully gifted Barney Cooper played Dan whose plans to marry Hannah go awry when faced with choice. Lucy Hird played the Hannah in question in a solid, emotional performance.
All of the actors in question displayed a multitude of talent, not only in their acting, but in their abilities to sing and play musical instruments as well offering a different angle on traditional plays.
Mike Heath’s assistance was evident in the technical aspects of the show with his invaluable input as Co-producer allowing the flow of the play to transfer between scenes with ease and with the added ambience of topical and modern Christian songs encapsulating the mood of the piece.
Credit must go to Naomi Sumner and the wonderful cast for risking the controversy of the theme, but for standing up for what they believe and to show how love does conquer all.
The play continues on March 2nd and 3rd at the Nexus Arts Café in Dale Street, Manchester with the final performance on March 5th at the Quaker Meeting House in Liverpool.
For further information, please visit the website – www.onefleshtheplay.eventbrite.co.uk