The Shrine of Everyday Things – Contact, Manchester (review)

23 Jul

The Shrine of Everyday Things. Contact Young Company, 22-25 July 2015

The Shrine of Everyday Things. Contact Young Company, 22-25 July 2015

 

A floor full of empty plastic bottles shows that someone has missed a few recycling collections. Every surface in a living room is crammed with cheap but once-beloved ornaments. Dinner is interrupted by a friendly, but lonely, neighbour.

The Shrine of Everyday Things is an installation of the mundane, expertly realised as a celebration of ordinary lives. The shrine is set in a suite of houses ready for demolition and regeneration in a part of Manchester unused to the spotlight, though intensely proud when it does shine on its residents.

Like a school trip, we’re led from Contact on a short walk to our destination. We listen to music on headphones and are sometimes gawped at by other passers by. The cast wave slowly at us, with fixed grins, from across the road as we approach. I give an inward cheer, realising that the bold claim “Coronation Street meets David Lynch” really could be on the cards. Indeed, the surreal punctuates the ordinariness very cleverly, never overawing the production.

We’re led between a handful of houses in a quiet courtyard by colourful characters in small groups of five, meaning that each group in the audience has a slightly different experience, though we all visit each part of the theatrical installation. The cast work on their own or in very small groups – there’s nowhere to hide for these young performers and they handle it all with admirable confidence. My group’s visit to the shrine ends on an enormous bed made of many mattresses, looking up at the ceiling, my head filled with childhood memories and the words of our cast make me feel hopeful about the future.

Hats off to the superb Contact Young Company who have devised this gem with the Manchester-São Paulo theatre-making super group of Lowri Evans, Rodolfo Amorim and Renato Bolelli Rebouças, and production designer Jessica Loveday.

I won’t tell you where all that sugar on the dining table comes from, what unpredictable things happen in the bedroom, or any of the vivid dreams we are asked to write on the walls of one of the homes.

Like the residents before us, we come out of our houses, join our neighbours and lean over the balcony, watching as the cast gathers on the grass below us. They take it in turns to tell us about treasured memories, and life feels good – even the grey clouds an hour before are gone and it’s warm and sunny. These are happy, silly, non-earth-shattering memories are real and honest and hopeful. For a few minutes, nothing exists outside these houses and this space. I feel like I should be wearing my roller boots, sipping from a mini can of Panda Pops and racing to join the Red Hand Gang (#80schild). Walking away, the cast breaks into a run together. It’s like a collision of friendship, school summer holidays, wild laughter, crazy optimism and is, as so much this afternoon, picture perfect.

Reviewed on 23 July 2015

The Shrine of Everyday Things runs 22-25 July 2015

 

The Shrine of Everyday Things, 22-25 July, Contact, Manchester. Image: Rodolfo Amorim

The Shrine of Everyday Things, 22-25 July, Contact, Manchester. Image: Rodolfo Amorim

 

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  1. How to be Better – Contact, Manchester | Cultural Shenanigans - December 17, 2015

    […] lot different in format from the fantastic site-specific summer show, The Shrine of Everyday Things (read my review), but there are also similarities. Where Shrine ended on a punch-the-air celebratory note, How To Be […]

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