Review: Motortown

reviews ‘Motortown’ a play that left her uncomfortable and on the edge of her seat throughout

Playwright: Simon Stephens
Director: Rory Hern
Producer: Katie Harrison
Cast: Nick Armfield, Alex Ferguson, George Morgan, Kate Burke, Riana Duce, Eliza Shea, Christian Smith, Andy Lake
Rating: ★★★★☆

Photo Credits: Motortown

Photo Credits: Motortown

“Motortown is a play about the human capacity for violence and loneliness and love”. Simon Stephens 2013

Set in the intimacy of the Department of Theatre, Film and Television’s very own Black Box, full to capacity on opening night, Motortown was sure to be a success. The minimalist set design, chosen by Dan Sparrow and Poppyann Medhurst, left the story-telling to the actors.

Using modified car parts as furniture to depict different settings was synonymous to the play being set in the heart of Dagenham, 2005. The home of the Ford Dagenham plant. This declining industrial urban space is all Danny (Nick Armfield) has to come back to following his spell in the Iraq war. Readjusting being an awfully difficult task.

Simon Stephens, a former University of York student, wrote Motortown over a series of eventful days – the success of London securing the Olympic 2012 bid alongside the tragedy of the 7/7 bombings. There is no wonder then, why the explicit content of play explores themes such as violence, love and loneliness overarched by the subject of war. Comments are made regarding the lack of support given to returning soldiers in assisting them with settling back into everyday life. As well as “being trained to be brutal” implying the difficulty in going from automated killing machine to normal civilian. Such issues have the potential to be melodramatic and insensitive, yet Motortown deals with them expertly – with the highest degree of sensitivity.

Nick Armfield (Danny) and Alex Ferguson (Lee) stole the show. Lee is Danny’s brother and is the only one Danny can rely upon. They open and close the show in the confines of Lee’s apartment (where Danny is staying), before and after all the craziness of just one day. It is interesting to see how one person’s mindset can fluctuate and deteriorate over the course of just 24 hours. Lee’s awkward character combined with Danny’s confident and masculine character would suggest these two polar opposites wouldn’t work together. Yet they do, with such beauty. Their relationship is admirable. However, it becomes apparent as the play draws to a close that they are not so different after all.

Armfield’s and Ferguson’s acting was impeccable and totally believable, I was completely engrossed in the action and was on the edge of my seat holding my breath in fear.
Motortown is definitely a must-see. I was drawn into the action. Left feeling uncomfortable, grossed out, scared and felt emotionally involved with Danny’s tribulations of dealing with the horrors of war, symbolised by the army rucksack he carried in the play representing the weight of war on his shoulders, getting heavier and heavier with the guilt of his actions throughout the play.

Motortown is showing at the Black Box until the 30th November. Tickets are £5.
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