Manchester Theatre Awards

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

Out Of Love

Elinor Cook
Paines Plough, Theatr Clwyd and Orange Tree Theatre
The Lowry, The Roundabout, Little Hulton 
08 September 2017 to 10 September 2017

The Roundabout certainly offers a varied programme. After a dark psychological thriller, author Elinor Cook uses Out Of Love, a story of female friendship and resentment, to reflect on the vagaries of life and the resilience of the human spirit.

Lorna (Sally Messham) and Grace (Katie Elin-Salt) are childhood friends. Initially Lorna seems the more unlucky of the two: with divorced parents and a mentally unstable father, she is dependent upon Grace for emotional support, which suits the possessive and somewhat needy Grace just fine. As the years pass, however, circumstances and the relationship alter. Grace falls pregnant and is unable to join Lorna, as they had planned, at university, and resentment begins to grow between the friends.

Elinor Cook’s masterstroke is the way in which she constructs the play. The storyline proceeds in a non-linear manner, jumping back and forth across timelines. This subjective approach allows Cook to show how the significance of events can be affected by the perception of an individual. What seems trivial to one character is later recalled by another as a devastating event.

Throughout Out Of Love there is also a sense that time, or experience, allows people to cope with what at first is thought to be a traumatic event. Cook’s approach is to use the fragmented timeline to show the aftermath of the trauma before the actual event. Thus we know that Grace will come to terms with the failure of her plans to leave home before we hear her heartfelt and desperate declaration of intent to escape.

Faced with such a complex storytelling technique, director James Grieve takes a less-is-more approach to ensure a lucid and clear production. There are no sets, and the frequent changes in scene and time and place are achieved by simple variations in lighting and the performance of the cast.

The production throws enormous responsibility upon the cast to make the ambitious concept work. Watching actors perform as children can be embarrassing, but Sally Messham and Katie Elin-Salt use sing-song vocals and gushing enthusiasm, alternating with sulky stares, to create convincing juveniles. As well as gaining and shedding years between scenes, the actors build  credible characters. Sally Messham does not hide the sense of guilt, and the slightly sullen edge of resentment, felt by Lorna (that her life has worked out better than Grace’s), while Katie Elin-Salt takes Grace from a dominating child through an exploited teen to someone able to find a kind of peace in the choices that were forced upon her.

Highly entertaining and uplifting, Out Of Love is an excellent play.

Reviewer: David Cunningham