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Who Cares



VAULT Festival 2020

Who Cares

Who Cares

Cage – The Vaults

Reviewed – 21st February 2020



“The lightness in the whole production betrays the skilful way in which the story is told and the issues explored”


Austerity Britain has a lot to answer for with its meaningless and mean-spirited social re-engineering responsible for many devastating things in contemporary society, not least the tearing apart of communities.

Many writers have been inspired by the crisis yet in Conor Hunt’s powerful new play “Who Cares” politics take a back seat to the more important reality of friendship winning through against all odds.

Last year Anna Jordan’s “We Anchor in Hope” showed how the closure of local pubs to make way for supermarket express stores, classy restaurants and luxury flats was ripping the heart out of community life.

In “Who Cares” the starting point is the same, as friendly Manchester local The Crown faces closure. But the pub is a sanctuary for a young disabled man, the only place he feels safe after being forced to move with his mum from their Camden flat because the council hadn’t the time to fix a broken lift.

Instead of descending into the sort of sentimentality beloved of TV soaps, a play which could so easily have focussed on a person’s disability stands out for concentrating on the value of true friendship, fighting against the odds and breaking away from self-imposed limitations.

The two characters are so well-developed over the course of an hour that this genuinely feels like a promising pilot for a TV sitcom. You can engage and empathise with them from the start and we want to know more about their lives and futures.

Reece Pantry’s Jamie suffers from Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a form of the long-term degenerative condition Muscular Dystrophy. Pantry, who has MD himself, quickly avoids any attempt to milk sympathy, believably portraying the sense of isolation and desperate need to save a pub where he feels accepted for who he is. It is no surprise Muscular Dystrophy UK has been so supportive of the production.

Kyle Rowe has the confident air of a young Christopher Eccleston in the role of pub landlord Daniel. Beneath the bluff Northern exterior lies a tender sincerity and the relationship between the two men is beautifully painted, from Dan helping Jamie fill out important forms to the pair singing Sonny and Cher at a karaoke.

There is an hilarious and touching scene in which Dan finds a Snow White outfit and wears it knowing how ridiculous he looks just to help his friend gain confidence in chatting up girls. The sight of Rowe in the costume will be one of the lasting images from this year’s VAULT Festival.

Emma-Louise Howell directs with a touch that is firm enough to move the plot along, yet with a delicacy that allows the two characters to develop naturally. The lightness in the whole production betrays the skilful way in which the story is told and the issues explored.

The set (Justin Williams) is an extraordinary recreation of a pub interior, at the start littered with the debris of a hen party the night before. Later on comedian Bradley Walsh even manages to make a sort of cameo appearance. It is a good example to others of using decent set and props fully rather than leaving absolutely everything to the imagination. Lighting (Joseph Ed Thomas) and sound (Jack Ridley) also do much to evoke the various moods.

It is refreshing to see such mature writing from someone up and coming and Hunt is clearly going to be a name to watch. Despite its warm heart “Who Cares” also has the capacity to provoke and dares to ask hard-hitting questions in a battered Britain.


Reviewed by David Guest

Photography by Ali Wright


VAULT Festival 2020



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Digging Deep

Digging Deep

VAULT Festival

Digging Deep

Digging Deep

The Vaults

Reviewed – 20th February 2019



“Guyler is most definitely a writing talent to be reckoned with”


Digging Deep is Amy Guyler’s four man play about suicide, which, shockingly, as the beer mats placed on our seats remind us, is the biggest killer of men under 45 in this country. The play centres on 22 year old Mossy and his group of mates. Mossy is done with life – he feels he’s flatlining already and he doesn’t see the point of carrying on – but he doesn’t want to leave his Mum with a costly funeral bill, so he enlists his mates to help him raise £10,000 before he ends it all. Before long, their local campaign goes viral and hits the headlines, the money is raised, and Mossy is faced with the reality of his situation.

Digging Deep is a well-paced, tightly written drama, with an expertly handled and unexpected last minute denouement. Guyler has a great ear, and for the most part the dialogue is eminently recognisable as the comfortable banter common to a group of lads who hang out together a lot. The gags are occasionally overplayed, and the comedic moments occasionally overwritten, but there are a lot of genuine laughs to be had, and Guyler is most definitely a writing talent to be reckoned with, particularly since she is also capable of moving people to tears; two men in the audience last night were completely overcome in the play’s final moments.

Credit must go too to Alistair Wilkinson’s sure-handed and creative direction, and to some terrific performances. Kyle Rowe, as Mossy, is magnetic on stage throughout, with tremendous physical and vocal presence. He is ably supported by Jonny Green – who gives a nuanced portrayal of the sensitive Matt – and Matthew Woodhead, entirely believable as Mossy’s oldest mate Kane. Josh Sinclair-Evans, as Jack, arguably has the most difficult task, and, although his performance makes more sense at the play’s close than it does during its unfolding, Jack’s characterisation still seems somewhat skin-deep in comparison with that of the other three. This is partly owing to the choice to give him a very obvious tic (he played nervously with the tie of his hoodie throughout) which emphasises his external behaviour over what he carries in his body.

The boys’ physicality plays a huge part in this piece; how they move, individually and collectively, tells us so much about who they are. There are some brilliantly directed set pieces – the sponsored onion-eating; the football match; the sky dive – but the subtle physical detail in each performance is almost more pleasing, defining, as it does, the boys so clearly one from the other. They scuff and lounge and strut around the stage, hands in pockets or down trousers, chests out or shoulders hunched, and paint a poignant potrait of the so-often-hidden struggles that so many young men face. Prepare to be moved.


Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography by Andrew James


Vault Festival 2019

Digging Deep

Part of VAULT Festival 2019




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