Four stars out of five
Crystal Kisses – produced by Contact Theatre in partnership with Comic Relief, Barnardo’s, the Protect Team, Brook, Manchester City Council and NHS Fresh, is a powerful piece of drama which highlights an important issue in Manchester today: Child Sex Exploitation.
The in depth research and commitment towards giving an honest yet brutal experience for the audience is shocking, however effective it may be. It is a fantastic play although I do warn; it is no Cinderella story and a strong drink may be needed afterwards. The theme is constant throughout and the audience can recognise the different influences that can bring such exploitation.
With the use of subtle lighting, basic staging and interesting props, the audience then can entirely focus on the acting and the theme of the play. The use of a white screen in the middle of the stage enables the actors in creating shadows and movement frames that can highlight the scene in front of it, which is an excellent technique and can seem to make the play more sinister and disturbing, which is what the actors want to achieve.
The play is set apart with three different “acts” you might call it, to present different scenarios in which the exploitation can be seen. “Toyah” whom is in social care and seems to be feisty and independent is however weak and vulnerable, under her hard exterior. “Jay” runs away from home, although has run to a place that is not as caring as he thought. Finally there is the character “Ally” who is the A Star student but faces temptation, sex and betrayal. Each section of the play is similar but different, using various techniques of drama such as choreographed physical movements, rhyme, metaphors, sound and dance to culminate this lucid piece of drama and emphasize various forms of exploitation.
Although this play mainly had a sombre feel, there are some comic attributions such as the character “Zed” whom lifts the mood with his witty lines and comic mannerisms. Though not long after that, once again the humour is gone and the solemnity continues. However it is a must see, as they do portray the theme extraordinarily well and use an assortment of techniques whilst doing so, just be prepared to hold your breath at times, well I did anyway.
Crystal Kisses ran for eight performances between 4th and 14th October at the Contact Theatre