Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

Now Listen To Me Very Carefully

Andy Roberts
Bootworks Theatre
HOME, Manchester
07 July 2016 to 09 July 2016

Entering the theatre for Now Listen To Me Very Carefully the audience is advised that the duration of the performance depends on the extent to which they are willing to participate in the show. This sounds daunting and the opening part of the show, which includes a quiz to identify film quotes, feels decidedly padded. The central feature of the opening is author Andy Roberts going around the room and persuading each member of the audience (no, really each one) to proclaim a line from the film Terminator 2: Judgement Day in various inflections. This seems to go on forever but actually ends after the line has been repeated 238 times because that is the number of times Roberts has seen the film.

Why the hell would anyone want to watch a film 238 times? Well that, eventually, turns out to be the point of Now Listen To Me Very Carefully as Roberts analyses why the film resonated so perfectly with his adolescent experiences that viewing became obsessive. Roberts’s father saved and planned for years to secure a dream holiday for his family; it follows, therefore, that Roberts would find wish-fulfilment in a film where a character can break into cash machines.

Roberts, in collaboration with James Baker, has devised a highly original if ramshackle presentation. The audience is heavily involved in their therapeutic recreation of the movie being cast as characters, providing sound effects and dodging bullets. Summarising plots of well-known stories has been done to death by the likes of The Reduced Shakespeare Company. Roberts and Baker gleefully tackle their version like children in a playground. Chase scenes that cost millions of dollars are recreated with a couple of toys.

It is this cheap and cheerful air of innocence that makes Now Listen To Me Very Carefully so engaging. There is a sense of a baffled teenager using a movie to help himself come to terms with situations for which he has no prior experience. Members of the Roberts family have recorded dialogue from the film, which adds to the feeling of intimacy as if we have been allowed to join in on a family game.

Roberts dashes around the stage like a child in a toyshop while Baker remains cool; seated to the rear of the stage mixing sound effects and offering the occasional acid remarks to ensure the show never becomes over-sweet. He is also dressed in a skin-tight metallic suit in the manner of the villain of the film that does neither him nor the audience any favours.

Now Listen To Me Very Carefully is a warm production that brings back memories of favourite childhood games and films. The cautionary aspect of Roberts tackling his obsession acting as a reminder that growing up is inevitable. Bearing in mind the success of Bootworks Theatre in evoking the spirit of childhood their production for children, The Many Doors of Frank Feelbad, that plays at HOME this Sunday should be well worth a look.

Reviewer: David Cunningham