Lara Gregorians checks in with Liver and Lung Productions’ latest offering
Crossed Wires tells the story of the Smiths: an everyday family from urban Yorkshire, who live a fairly normal life. All is well and good until one day, Tony, the father of the family, gets caught up in a convoluted murder, and must prove his innocence, all the while dealing with his familial troubles. His wife, Julie, is left to hold the pieces together, trying to restore balance and peace within her family as the whirlwind of their evening ensues.
Written and directed by UCL alum Hannah Shields, Crossed Wires strikes an interesting mix of drama and comedy; everything was a bit over the top, from its Corrie-style plot to its laugh-out-loud worthy lines, yet the whole play remained simple and touching. The plot never jarred or dragged, and bar some over-cliché lines, the writing was very natural and fluid. The minimal staging and intimate setting also gave this familial scene the honest simplicity it needed, and the in-the-round staging was utilised masterfully. Chairs were placed strategically to allow 360 degree viewing, also allowing the audience to really feel as if they were peering into their daily scene.
The play, however, seemed a tad too formulaic. We hit all the dramatic-storyline buzzwords: murder, homophobia, redundancy, racism, family angst, mother-daughter conflict, father-son conflict, a car crash, drug dealing, people going missing, and happy resolution. It was a lot to take on. This dramatic overdose could have worked in a more self-deprecating way, but the balance between sincere drama and comedic jibing wasn’t quite clear enough.
The cast did a wonderful job of balancing the light and dark of the plot. The dynamic between the Smith family was well-established, with scenes of chaos between the siblings resembling moments I’m all too familiar with. Anastasia Fordham was convincing and emotive as mother of the family, Julie Smith; her moments of fragility resonated, and you couldn’t help but empathise with her constant attempts to unify her family. Kathryn Hanke was an absolute crowd pleaser as next-door neighbour and gossip queen, Margaret Whitfield. Her timing was flawless, and she interjected with great one-liners and comments in some of the play’s darker moments. It was refreshing to find the audience laughing so loudly amid classically intense dialogues.
Crossed Wires is a strong play with an even stronger cast. It showcases the broadest range of feelings and scenarios humanly possible within two hours, yet keeps you drawn in and engaged with the one scene. Though a few storyline layers could’ve been removed, I would cast Crossed Wires as a great success for Liver and Lung Productions.
Featured Image Credit: Dante Kim and Vanessa Gstettenbauer