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Manchester Lines
By Jackie Kay
Library Theatre Company
Number One First Street, Manchester
14 June 2012

Manchester Lines

John Branwell as Eugene in Manchester Lines. Photo by Gerry Murray

This is very much a poet’s play, a meditation on all that is lost and missing, on things held on to fast against the passing of time.  Ultimately, perhaps, it’s a play about identity and survival.

You are escorted up to the fifth floor of a modern building, the vestiges of Manchester’s industrial past below, though you see them only at the end.  First, you’re required to register an item that you’ve lost.  When done, there is an installation to look at: the journey proceeds down a serpentine corridor, replete with brochures, posters and knick-knacks, and even a miniature train set.  Be sure to take your time here and at journey’s end, where the set proper is a lost property office; it is marvellously atmospheric.

In the play itself, the trope of loss is played out in various different guises: the characters range from Anna (Bettrys Jones), a runaway, a girl about to go missing, to Jessie (Anne Kidd), an elderly woman seemingly suffering from Alzheimer’s, who’s consumed by a childhood fear of being swallowed up by the sea.

Eugene (John Branwell), the keeper of the lost property office, becomes the focal point for their fears and concerns.  He’s a kind of semi-mythical figure, a kindlier version of Kafka’s gatekeeper.  Never doubt that mythical beings, some of them any roads, have Manchester accents.

Jackie Kay’s finely wrought and beautifully produced poetic play is showing until 7 July only, further details can be found here.