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3rd October 2012

Raw Like Onions

Ally Mitchell went to the Lowry last week to see new play, Onions Cry Too.

Three stars out of five stars

Before attending the Friday night performance of ‘Onions Cry Too’ I knew very little about the play’s content. I was told in advance was that it was ‘a play about old men in a care home’ and that was it. Naturally, this left a lot of room for intrigue and slight confusion as I waited for Friday to arrive – my thought processes trying to be as clever as possible – did the ‘Onion’ title allude to grumpy, angry men or did it mean, like an onion, you shouldn’t take old men at face value? Would it be naturalistic, depicting the characters’ lives or would it be stylised and abstract? I went along to the Lowry with few expectations, only thinking soon I will understand the mystery of the title and what on earth ‘onions’ meant.

Even now I’m still confused. I have two mind-sets about the play as a whole. The storyline is very interesting: three old men are seemingly visited by Charles who appears to enjoy unsettling and abusing their mellow lifestyle. It is clear throughout that there is a larger concept however; Charles and Donald have an unknown relationship as they tousle with the other two men’s minds. The plot is a complicated and clever idea by the writer Jayne Marshall, but unfortunately I found it was severely compromised by the acting and with only four actors with equally sized roles, the poor acting ability strongly dominated the play.

As the performance began I wondered if the play was purposely stylised with almost lilting rhyming couplets. However I soon realised it was just the acting and Arthur Bostrom’s camp flamboyancy as he was basically playing Officer Crabtree from ‘Allo Allo!’ all over again. The script was slightly clichéd and by the end I didn’t feel particularly satisfied as though the plot twist hadn’t been completely explained or conveyed effectively. With such a complex concept better acting is a necessity to carry the play through.

Nevertheless, the general notion is very sweet and touching as two old men, Bertie and Alfred, are forced to reflect on their lives facing the regret and guilt they have allowed to dominate their listless existence. There is one very moving scene as Alfred, played by the commendable Eryl Lloyd Parry, reminisces about his wife and daughter which even led to me, from my cynical approach by this point, to develop a lump in my throat. The old men go through stages of liberation through flashback and confrontation, almost like peeling away the layers of an onion to get to the heart. Altogether there were some pleasing moments throughout; I found the set design to be a perfect metaphor by the end’s revelation, but the acting standard for two hours was difficult to watch. Both the acting and the script need revising before the play becomes as hard hitting and raw as it is intended.


Onions Cry Too ran at the Lowry from the 26th to the 29th of September.

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