REVIEW: Blindsided - Royal Exchange, Manchester

Julie Hesmondhalgh
Julie Hesmondhalgh
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Blimey – Roy Cropper would choke on one of his toasted tea-cakes if he saw this.

Julie Hesmondhalgh, in her first role since bidding farewell to Coronation Street and heartbroken hubby Roy, stars in a play that, as the title suggests, leaves not only the characters but the audience shocked from the onset.

It is a very bleak, edgy modern play, set in Stockport in the 1970s and centring on two working class, unstable youngsters from dysfunctional, broken homes who fall in love, an explosive partnership that ultimately leads to tragedy.

These parts are beautifully acted by Katie West (sublime as the vulnerable Cathy Heyer) and Andrew Sheridan (the menacing, controlling John Connolly).

Hesmondhalgh has more of a supporting role, as does another familiar face from TV, Jack Deam, who plays a slightly odd character here called Isaac Berg (odd in the respect that it has no real depth or point) but is best known for his work on Channel 4’s Shameless.

The play is an interesting piece of work but it won’t be to everyone’s tastes. There is a weirdly graphic sex scene (the actors keep their clothes on but it’s slightly full-on nonetheless) and there is lots of swearing throughout.

As always at the wonderful Royal Exchange, it is excellently staged but I left a bit disappointed in Simon Stephen’s script. I didn’t feel emotionally attached to the events, I didn’t laugh or feel particularly moved, despite the often sensitive subject matter.

The final scene was the best of the lot, taking place 20 years later as Tony Blair’s Labour come to power, and makes sense of what went before.

But without a bit of a rewrite I really don’t think this play will go down as a classic – a worthy but imperfect piece of work.

What is certain is that those many middle-class folk who have undoubtedly booked to see Hayley Cropper will leave the theatre more than a little shocked.

On till February 15.