I walk in and there they are getting mortalled in a club. The sexy blonde giving the Sicilian Lothario the come on… then it’s no holds barred sex until the pills wear off. No. Not a scene from Geordie Shore, these are lads and lasses from Boro like; Smoggies every one.
Ten Storey Love Song by Middle Child, original story written by Richard Milward, adapted for theatre by Luke Barnes, directed by Paul Smith and seen by me, sat in the fourth row at Hull Truck on Thursday night. That gets all that out the way in one breath.
It’s crude and lewd, with evidence of bodily fluid in the corners: as tower block living should be. Just like urban reality, it’s peopled with extreme characters, living cheek by jowl, trying to survive. On the left there’s Bobby The Artist (Marc Graham) living with the good girl Georgie (Annabel Betts) who keeps him in paint and pink shrimps. Opposite we find the aforementioned sexy blonde Ellen (Sophie Thompson) staying with Johnny (Edward Cole) Neanderthal man, who loves shagging and getting high. Then there’s Alan Blunt (Matthew May), he’s a bit of a concern is Alan Blunt.
It’s not Shakespeare, it’s not a Greek tragedy, you don’t need an art degree to get this story. The poster said for fans of Skins and Shameless: estate life, working class poetry, finding meaning, all that. The play’s title references the Stone Roses song of the same name, and the storyline loosely hangs around the Mancunian band’s 1990 hit ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ with the I’ll do anything for idolisation, spiel.
The live soundtrack – by ex-Paris XY architect James Orvis – plays an integral part in conveying the different moods and raising the tension, adding colour to the drama on stage. It felt more chill out than floor stomper, more Underworld and beats driven, with occasional vocals from Anna Wilson, that fit within the dance music.
A smart move by Orvis to accept the challenge of composing for live theatre. If he wishes to move into making film music, he’ll have to get used to being thrown keywords and trusting in his ability to translate ideas into sounds. The visuals by Euan Baker, all created on film as opposed to special effects and digital trickery, add another dimension and something for the, ‘if it’s not on a screen‘ visual generation of today.
Originally a stream of conscious novel Ten Storey Love Song, was written by Richard Milward as one long block of text. This approach, the physical shape of the text, informed the setting; having all his disparate characters living in the one tower block.
That compartmentalised living is further underlined, by the narrative structure in the play. For much of the play the actors narrate the action themselves, allowing for a lot more to happen in a short space of time, than would be possible with a standard back and forth script. It’s fast, it’s fun and it is very constricted, you can almost see the thin walls around each scene. Take that idea a little further and add the cartoon violence to all the action happening inside the little boxes, the boxes become like those on a comic strip, the comic strip becomes a block of boxes, so recreating the tower block form again.
There’s some downright weird use of grotesque masques, during the tripped out psychosis scene: the pigeon is priceless. I want to say something about the dual role that art plays in Ten Storey, both salvation and spanner or should that be hammer?
Being the UK City of Culture 2017, there’s an added frisson with the appearance of the London impresario. He promises the world, he’s gonna make our deluded little northern painter rich. It’s like Chris Griffin ‘wunderkind‘ goes to New York, or Homer outsider- artist, or even James Arthur meets Simon Cowell – only James was from Saltburn not Middlesbrough like.
Go out, have a laugh, get mortalled and buy into Ten Story Love Song – on until next Saturday 12th March
Photos courtesy of Jerome Whittingham http://jerome.photoshelter.com/