This Town at the Contact Theatre
This Town, by Rory Aaron at the Contact Theatre, Performed by Rory Aaron and Kate Ireland
Review by Seamus Kelly
Billed as a modern-day epic narrative poem this production might to be undersold – it is so much more with its superb dramatic performances, including dance, physicality and the poet, Rory Aaron, and actor, Kate Ireland, each taking on roles of narrator and various characters in the piece. The poetry itself never gets bogged down in restrictive patterns and rhythms but adapts and changes throughout the performance adding power and depth to the story.
The stage set, a simple platform on casters with two wooden walls and a doorway was deceptively simple yet clever set which enhanced the performance. The actors simply rotated the platform between the interior of the local pub or other locations as necessary. A mixture of music composed for the piece by Blythe Pepino and classic from the 90s complemented the writing and added atmosphere.
This Town, running for an hour, tells the story through the eyes and words of a young man called Dean, his family and those he associates with, as he returns to his small home town. The town is Derby, the poet’s home town but could be anywhere, especially in the North of England.
Dean has trouble at school and skips it when he can and hangs around the local gym run by boxing coach Vlad. He is close to Joe a young boxer with lots of aggression and anger issues who is heading towards his first fight. Dean’s brother, Liam, has come home from his most recent spell as a soldier in Basra but can’t bring himself to tell anyone that he wont be gong back because of PTSD. The portrayal of the young man struggling to breath with his seizures, and panic as PTSD kicks in is both stunning and shocking, a superb piece of acting and direction.
Sarah has been Dean’s friend since childhood and is uncomfortable and Dean’s feelings change and he “just wants to own me, just like all the others”, but is unable to bring herself tell friends or family that she is gay.
With the local pub landlady, Clara, from Belfast having supported her husband through early onset Alzhiemer's, the story, just like life in many small towns, can feel very bleak; but the characters, the strength of the performances, the empathy in the writing and a few moments of hope result in an excellent show.
Sadly This Town has booked for only short run at Contact Theatre, who commissioned it along with Derby Theatre, but Rory Aaron the writer is one to watch along with Kate Ireland. Hopefully the piece will find more and bigger audiences that it deserves.
This Town was supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
Written and performed by: Rory Aaron
Performer: Kate Ireland
Director: Cheryl Martin
Producer: Roxy Moores for Contact
Movement Director and Assistant Director: Chris Brown
Composer: Blythe Pepino
Set Designer: Ella Barraclough