22/08/17 - 'Greyhounds' at the Kings Arms

Manchester is an incredibly creative place and the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival is a shining example of all the exciting things the city has to offer.  Running throughout the month of July, this year's was the biggest and the best yet with hundreds of productions taking place in a plethora of venues and I was lucky enough to attend Time & Again Theatre's sold out production of Greyhounds at the Kings Arms in Salford.

Picture credit: itslauracrow

Since I've lived in Manchester, I've seen a lot of productions advertised at the Kings Arms but this was the first I've made it to.  I was not disappointed - the pub itself is a cross between a traditional boozer and a bohemian paradise hosting live theatre and music events, and Greyhounds took place in their lovely little studio above the bar.  It was a muggy July evening and although the intimate theatre space took on something of a sauna-like quality, once the play began it was easy to get lost in it and forget the warmth of the surroundings!

Greyhounds is the writing debut of Time & Again's Laura Crow and the script is a delight - perfectly balanced between witty little lines, historical accuracy and moments of poignancy. The plot is based around a village's amateur dramatic group in the year 1941 as they put on a production of Shakespeare's Henry V to raise money for a Spitfire.  This premise provides ample opportunity to take a glimpse at the way in which civilians during wartime attempt to continue their lives as close to normality as possible and how this attempt can be hindered by both the personal and social tensions of the time.  Although the plot is focussed closely on our cast of five, the writing helps to create a sense of a wider community within the village and it very much feels as though you are peeking into a very specific part of an insular rural neighbourhood.

Tim Cooper as Edward Holmes and Laura Crow as Katherine Winters
Picture credit: Time & Again Theatre Company

The cast work seamlessly as an ensemble and each character is given ample opportunity to develop their own story, not an easy task in a play with a relatively short running time.  Catherine Cowdrey and Laura Crow are a perfect pair as the Winters sisters; Ruby, the put-upon director with an ambitious vision of how the play should turn out, and Katherine, unable to quite see the point of the whole thing.  Their barbed comments and inability to see eye-to-eye make for many of the play's most amusing moments, but there is real heart underneath the jibes and the sisterly bond is clear to see.  Jacob Taylor's Will Croft is an enigmatic and conflicted young man, a farm-hand by day but one who clearly has greater intellectual aspirations.  Rachel Horobin is very sweet and endearing as Nancy Wilde, a newcomer to the village fresh from the bright lights of London, and her budding friendship with Tim Cooper's injured serviceman Edward Holmes evolves smoothly throughout the plot.  Watching these five characters, a varied bunch thrown together by circumstance, as they work towards a common goal and find ways to overcome their differences makes for interesting viewing and many of the plot points will be familiar to those of us who have been involved in the tense and political world of amateur dramatics!

Jacob Taylor as Will Croft
Picture credit: Time & Again Theatre Company

If you missed Greyhounds the first time around, never fear - fortunately the production is returning to the Kings Arms for a well-deserved second run on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th September.  Further details can be found here and tickets are available to purchase here.  I would recommend acting quickly as I suspect they are destined to sell out again!

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