Manchester Theatre Awards

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

Blade Runner

Adapted by Ian Winterton & Gareth Kavanagh from the Ridley Scott film
Lass O' Gowrie Productions
Lass O' Gowrie, Charles Street
06 April 2013 to 10 April 2013

As mainstream theatres turn more and more to mainstream films and TV, to cannibalise as readily-recognisable stage shows for their mainstream audiences, so fringe venues are recognising the potential for theatrical versions of much more edgy film and TV – the sort of things that tend (rather annoyingly in my view) to be described as “cult classics”.

The Lass O’Gowrie especially is picking up a useful reputation in this area, with enthusiastic audiences enjoying shows like their versions of V For Vendetta, or Withnail And I along with their take on some classic Corrie episodes.

But a stage version of Blade Runner? That simply sounded barmy! How on earth could the visually-spectacular, action-packed and darkly-prophetic Ridley Scott science fiction-noir movie feasibly be replicated on their tiny stage, over a pub?

Very successfully as it turns out. Obviously, MTA-winning writer Ian Winterton and Gareth Kavanagh have had to eschew the cutting-edge special effects of the movie. Indeed the staging consists of little more than a few bin bags, some pyramid thingamajigs (a technical term, you understand), a gun and a soundtrack of constant rain. But that necessarily forces your attention on to the characters - whether human, replicant or you’re not sure which - in this neo-noir thriller. In that sense, it’s much closer to Philip K. Dick’s source novel, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, and none the worse for that.

If you haven’t seen the film, 21st century gumshoe Rick Deckard (here played by Gabriel Paul, last seen at the Lass as Presuming Ed in Withnail And I) is charged by his old partner Gaff (Catia Perry) with tracking down and terminating a band of renegade replicants, or androids, who’ve escaped back to this benighted and decaying Earth from the off-world colonies in search of their maker. But if the highly-advanced replicants, including Roy Batty (Joe O’Byrne), Pris (Carly Tarett), Zhora (Catia Perry) and Leon Kowalski (Brian Gorman), not only look exactly like human beings but have developed the same emotions, including love and fear, then why should they have to die?

Another experimental replicant Rachel (Natalie Perry) doesn’t even know she’s a replicant because of artificial memories implanted in her by Eldon Tyrell (Daniel Thackeray) and J.F. Sebastian (Amir Rahimzadeh). Will the love affair between Deckard, possibly a replicant himself, and Rachel have a happy ending? Almost certainly not in this bleak vision of a world that’s as much our own as it is a science-fiction future, but does that make it valueless?

Directed by Ian Curley, this is a dynamic piece of theatre that, like the best guerilla art, uses its apparent limitations to stretch its imagination. Oh, and based on shamelessly earwigging a couple of enthusiastic audience members afterwards, I can fairly confidently inform you that prior knowledge of the film, or book, is by no means a prerequisite to enjoying this hugely-enjoyable production.

Reviewer: Kevin Bourke