Motortown

Mon 18th – Sun 24th August 2014

reviews

Jessica McKay

at 20:51 on 20th Aug 2014

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Don’t be fooled by it’s name, Motortown isn’t a play for car-enthusiasts...or many others. This plucky attempt to illustrate the horror of PTSD has intensity but lacks finesse.

Motortown is a play about ex-soldier Danny (Jack Finch) who struggles to settle back home after a tour in Basra. He has a turbulent relationship with his ex, his family and everybody else around him.

Tom Mackintosh, who plays Danny’s socially-awkward, obsessive-compulsive brother Lee, executes his role well. The first scene, featuring Danny and Lee adjusting to each other's company once more, is believable and touching.

From here, things become more and more far-fetched, with Danny harassing an ex-lover, buying a shotgun and visiting an East-End gangster with a fourteen-year-old girlfriend. George Parker plays the gangster Paul well, but the character seems totally out of place in this play. Motortown goes from feeling like a semi-eloquent musing on PTSD to a Danny Dyer film reworked for the stage.

As Motortown goes on, Danny descends further and further into madness and violence - which is as much as I can say without giving the plot away. Finch is clearly trying extremely hard to portray this descent successfully, but is too prone to simply shouting his lines. Finch isn’t entirely at fault here, as the script itself does him no favours.

Racist attacks are cobbled together with odd flashbacks and screams. I would be interested to know how much research the writers did into PTSD. Not everyone with a mental disease is completely and utterly incoherent and incapable of linking one sentence with another. Danny's character seems hastily sketched and clichéd.

Another thing that hampers Motortown is its sheer lack of audience: five members, including two reviewers. I know this isn't the actors' fault, but I feel like some of the intensity of the play comes across as a personal attack and doesn't have the intended effect. I leave the venue feeling physically drained.

That drained feeling could also have been down to the fact that the play goes on for way too long. It should end at least two scenes earlier than it does, as the final scenes contribute nothing significant to the plot or our understanding of Danny’s psyche.

Motortown has potential, but I don’t think it is quite ready to be at the Fringe. The passion that’s there needs reigning in and the plot tightening up in order for it to become a viable piece of theatre. I wouldn’t recommend it in its current state.

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Kate Wilkinson

at 10:15 on 21st Aug 2014

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For a play that markets itself as a comment on the Iraq war, Motortown by Simon Stephens concerns itself far more with personal relationships than politics. The scene is set with a news report and a recording of Tony Blair’s war speech describing the war as being in ‘the spirit of friendship and goodwill’. From here we focus on Danny (Jack Finch), a soldier returning home from the war and struggling to adjust to normal life.

For the most part Finch delivers a controlled and naturalistic performance. The melodramatic excesses of Stephens’s script are a challenge for any actor, and as the play progresses, Danny’s fraying sanity and descent into immorality are a little uncertain.

Danny’s presumably autistic brother is endearingly portrayed by Tom Mackintosh. His evasive body language and quavering voice convey an intense vulnerability. Sadly Mackintosh falls into the one-note trend that besets much of the acting in Motortown.

George Parker gives a frightening performance as Paul, the classic sadist nihilist. Constantly spewing pseudo-intellectual rhetoric, in his first lengthy spiel he remarks that ‘there is no solidity, only the perception of solidity’. In my (highly eloquent) notes I have simply written the words ‘evil- pure, pure, pure evil’ by his name. This is the sort of guy who, by his own admission/boasting, would pay good money to see a production of ‘Bolger- the musical’. Paul’s fourteen-year-old girlfriend Jade is played convincingly by Tir Dhondy. Her blank eyes and bored gum-chewing is soon replaced with the wide eyes of fear when Danny threatens her life.

It is a difficult play and HeRo Productions bring it off with varying levels of success. The set and technical features have been used efficiently and the sound and lighting is slick throughout. The loud and precise gun-shot effect leaves the ears ringing. Nevertheless, the acting needs better control to fully realise the tension of the piece. Directors Ross Carey and Helena Jobson need to inject more pace as the slow dialogue makes for a heavy play. Motortown might not be as hard-hitting as it would like but this production is certainly not without merit.

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