53Two, Manchester (Supported by Queer Contact)
The Newspaper Boy, part of Queer Contact, tells the story of Christian Dibmore, a working-class 15 year old starring as the newest child-star in the nation’s favourite soap. The story follows the burden of his success, his involvement with drugs and his gradual coming out – all set in the nostalgic 90s Manchester. The play is honest, and grabs you from the very beginning.
The Newspaper Boy is inherently Mancunian, and evokes nostalgia from the get go. Jean (Karen Henthorn), Christian’s Nan, is a character that reminded me of my own Grandma, the surroundings of 90s Moston completely convincing. Throughout, the setting of the play is so familiar that you can’t help but feel right at home – and the humour feels like being reintroduced to an old friend.
The coming out story of the play, and the diﬃculties that Christian faces as he is splashed across the tabloids for having a relationship with an older man, undercuts the humour of the play and is a reminder of the challenges the LGBTQ community was facing just twenty ﬁve years ago. A gentle nod to the death of Freddie Mercury rooted the play, reminding us of the stories that many LGBTQ people carry with them, and how important it is for these stories to be shared in order to encourage hope and give people strength.
Alongside the history of the play, the characters were highly convincing, with particularly good performances from Christian (Daniel Maley), who brought the character to life (helped by a traditional ‘curtains’ 90s hair do!). The interlinking set was interesting and transported the viewers to as many locations as possible within a restricted space. intricacies of Christian’s life – his small childhood bedroom, claustrophobic living room, before being transported onto the set of a soap, or into a club.
The play did run a little long, and the second half lacked in pace, with a few scenes that over ran and didn’t keep the rhythm of the drama. However, as an audience member I couldn’t help but feel honoured to be able to share this story and be transported back in time.
You can catch The Newspaper Boy at 53Two until Saturday 24th February – and it’s certainly worth a watch. Book Now.
Review © M. Holland 2018
Image © Duncan Elliot