Written by Joe Ward Munrow
Directed by Lorne Campbell
Liverpool Playhouse (8th November - 1st December 2012)

Reviewed by Sue Callaghan Murray

When faced with a new work there tend to be extra questions that you ask. Where is the writer from? Why is the piece being staged? And any number of other seemingly irrelevant enquiries fuelled by the fact that you could potentially be taken out of your comfort zone. Held has given Liverpool Playhouse a perfect reply. Joe Ward Munrow is currently the theatre’s Writer on Attachment and has already been commanding an element of respect. The theme - Alzheimer’s disease - is something that will affect more and more of the population as life expectancy increases, and yet surprisingly remains shrouded by an element of mystery. Was the unusual formation of vacant chairs on stage going to provide any explanation or answers?

In the flash of a light bulb Mary (brilliantly portrayed by Pauline Daniels) is faced by her sons. Alan Stocks as Simon and Ged McKenna as David, who try to untangle a web that sits very deeply in Mary’s mind. Constant evolution of the simple set gave a truly unique fourth dimension to the whole performance even though the characters remained ever present. Emotional reminiscence and description steered the audience through laughter, pain and at one point quite literally to tears. Maybe this was what Shakespeare or even Chekhov would be writing if they were alive today in the 21st century? Certainly the powerful monologues and an incredible simultaneous dialogue scene might suggest that to be the case.

With Held, Ward Munrow has created a complexity that is still easy to comprehend. Whether colour of language or religious reference actually added anything significant may be up for debate but this wasn’t by any means Thora Hird or Carla Lane. It is certainly new work in the fullest most original meaning of the term and may well leave you asking ‘Why don’t more mainstream national theatres take the step to nurture promise and potential of this quality?’ I got the feeling that the esteemed cast had both enjoyed and taken something positive from the experience and would agree with me. I sincerely hope many more will get the chance. I suggest everyone should give themselves an opportunity to be a judge of that.

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