In Haunt

By Dr Becky Alexis Martin

An exciting collaboration between Gecko and Mind the Gap theatre companies, 'a little space' runs at Manchester’s HOME from 12-15 February. Dr Becky Alexis Martin (Lecturer in Human Geography, Manchester Metropolitan University) went along to watch…

The claustrophobic yet lonely experience of urban tower block living is channelled by this thought-provoking piece of physical theatre. The play opens with a sparse and archaic set, featuring an iron bedstead and an old T.V. set. However, its themes have arguably never been more pertinent. As more of us live precariously in close-proximity rented accommodation, so too are our homes are haunted by their previous occupants, and our neighbours. A Little Space delves into this private space to explore both banal and fantastical experiences of home, and the irrationalities that emerge when we are alone. We may wish for a little space of our own, but within the tower-block our wishes are rarely fulfilled, and we are never truly alone.

A little Space by Tom Woollard

An entanglement of brass pipes provides a conduit around which the performance unravels, as several intersecting lives collide across past, present and future space. The cast’s exaggerated acting and the performativity of their actions and reactions, bring to mind the caricatures that we create of our own unseen yet all too-well known neighbours. I recalled my own past neighbourly pedigree of bad musicians playing tuneless dirges, the heavy tread of footsteps above my bedroom, and of strange doors slamming mysteriously in the depths of the night. These exaggerated depictions can also be strangely distancing, sometimes making it difficult to care for the character’s individual narratives.

A Little Space

In a little space, comic micro-dramas play out before our eyes, and we become voyeurs of the quotidian. We see an inattentive father in thrall to his television, his daughter pleading for his attention, while the skit is wryly sound-tracked by the Coronation Street theme tune. In another skit, a couple clean their teeth in perfect synchronicity, scrub-scrub-spit, enacting someone else’s unrealistic dream of perfect harmony. A woman is haunted by her surrounding human landscape, covering her face with her hands while surrounded by the spectres of other inhabitants, as writhing as hands thrust out through floorboards to drag her down into her own personal hell. a little space channels J.G. Ballard’s High Rise as it explores the discord of the tower block, through many exchangeable and timeless vignettes. The exceptional lighting and soundscapes create a complex suffocating miasma, where fluttering lights and startling noises mingle with nostalgic tunes. There is no linear plot to a little space, as it mimics its resident’s directionless lives.

A Little Space By Tom Woollard

This thought-provoking play could be described as brutalist theatre, where the humdrum experiences of city dwelling have been stripped to their essence and presented with humour, but without excess sentiment. A must-see for those who have ever inadvertently shared their space with others.

Photography - by Tom Woollard

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