Every February, the University of Manchester Drama Society’s Manchester In-Fringe Theatre Awards (MIFTA) season comes around, bringing exciting potential for new interpretations of existing plays, and debuts of original works written and created by some of the university’s most talented dramatists. As MIFTA audience members of past and present will agree, the extraordinary quality of work produced by members of the society never fails to surprise and amaze. Most recently, Manchester theatre-goers were presented with Tom Mackintosh’s gripping play Bad Company, in the Council Chambers of the Students’ Union. With the debut of this extraordinarily written comic drama, it has become clear that the relentlessly high standards have become an inevitable part of the MIFTA experience, and audiences ought not to be so surprised in future.
For Martin and Helena Cabrera, life plays out each day in the same dreary fashion. Their marriage seemingly decaying around them at the same rate as the slowly crumbling bed and breakfast that they run together, time is pulling them down a miserable slope. It is upon the sudden arrival of three new guests that their dull existence is at once shaken to the core, forcing them to confront issues which have simmered silently and malevolently beneath the surface of their marriage for an agonisingly long time.
Most significantly, the resounding success of Bad Company owes itself to the insightful and witty text. Illuminating the agonies and strains often suffered within adult romantic relationships, Mackintosh revealed an incredibly genuine understanding of married life. Cleverly juxtaposing an overbearing context of dissatisfaction and bitterness with many laugh-out-loud witticisms and one-liners, the audience was provided with a captivating and ‘real’ presentation of a couple’s everyday life.
Bolstering the movingly convincing text was the sensitive physical presentation of the play’s five characters. Supremely well cast, the talent of each actor in Bad Company is undeniable. With particularly resonant performances by Yasmin Al-Khudhairi as the resentful Helena Cabrera, and Tom Roberts as the mysterious and charming Quentin Lovelace, the cast unfalteringly personified their characters with compelling intuition. The precise comic and dramatic timing of delivery by the cast proved key to the general effectiveness of Bad Company. Of course, the overall creative input of director, Rishi Pelham cannot be overlooked in this respect. Having worked to fuse the textual and practical elements of Bad Company, Pelham has achieved a satisfyingly consistent and powerful overall production.
While the MIFTAs provide emerging student writers with an extremely worthwhile opportunity to present their work, it is truly saddening to think that most of these plays are packed away at the end of their run, never to be viewed by an audience again. When it comes to Bad Company, there would be no bigger sin than to bury the script forever. It is a play which deserves to be recognised, and undoubtedly there is much to look forward to in Tom Mackintosh’s future as a playwright.