Manchester Theatre Awards

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

Youth Panel Review: What Are They Like?

Lucinda Coxon
Woodhey High School
Bolton Octagon
11 May 2016 to 12 May 2016

It’s clear from watching Woodhey High School’s slick and confident performance of Lucinda Coxon’s play, What Are They Like?, that a huge amount of work has gone into the piece. It’s composed almost entirely of monologues, and the cast cope brilliantly with both this pressure and the play’s loose, disordered structure.

What Are They Like? is set at a parents’ support group meeting, with each character delivering their thoughts on raising children directly to the audience. Casting young people as adults works brilliantly here, probably because each cast member is in part holding up a mirror to their experiences with their own parents.

From the entertainingly angry mum explaining to her teenage son – who she has caught watching porn – that real women don’t resemble Barbie dolls, to the poignant account of the adoptive mother and the spot-on portrayal of a laidback dad, the cast play each different kind of parent with confidence and perception.

With its high proportion of monologues, this piece has the potential to be quite static, but Woodhey introduce some welcome sections of movement – firstly, in the mime montage that opens the play. Set to a timeline of pop hits, this comical sequence depicts the circle of life, with the parents starting as children and tracing their lives to the present day. It’s entertaining, but it also encourages the audience to see the connections between generations.

A colourful toybox in the corner of the stage also helps to introduce movement and break up the piece. Characters dip into this box at regular intervals and pull out items such as steam trains, tutu skirts and story books, before playing with them in slow motion.

This play is a true ensemble piece, requiring a cast that work well together and sharing the spotlight equally between characters. It would have been interesting – and entertaining – to see the workshop leader character interacting more fully with the parents however.

Reviewer: Georgina Wells

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