Review: Connection at Harrogate Theatre

Harrogate Theatre champions new writing and Connection by Rachael Halliwell is part of this worthwhile commitment.

By Angie Millard

Photos by Malcolm Johnson (@malcij)

Connection is a tightly constructed show, directed by Nathan Marsh and is billed as being like the film Thelma and Louise. This is misleading as the play bears no resemblance to that film except that it is about two women and takes us on a Northern road trip to Scarborough where Elaine needs to say goodbye to a friend. The ashes she carries with her are significant and Catherine, the other woman, decides to accompany her. The pressures of their daily existence which have brought them to an A&E Department gradually unravel in a series of monologues loosely connected as a play.

Catherine, played by Rachael Halliwell, is bitter and captures the unpleasant results of being unloved and rejected. Elaine, played by Catherine Breeze, offers a sharp contrast in her caring attitude to those around her. We glimpse the trapped life of being a carer which threatens the mental health of both characters but in their escape the need for someone else who can understand and support them is paramount.

The studio is set with chairs which are arranged to become multiple locations and Marsh creates an atmosphere of tension and the emotion shared by these two strangers is at times poignant. But it is a play which needs links to make the monologues cohesive. When Andrew Turner as Steve, Catherine’s brother, delivered a stunning speech which was both truthfully acted and well written, it failed to be securely integrated into the whole piece. I felt that I wanted less description of nannies somersaulting into the traffic, less sensational references to ‘dogging’ and more of the telling words she put in the mouth of her sad hopeless brother.

The play raises some thought-provoking ideas I look forward to Halliwell exploring them in future.

Connections runs at Harrogate Theatre from 1-5 October and is a co-production with Rachael Halliwell. It is written by Rachael Halliwell, directed by Nathan Marsh, with set and costumes by Caitlin Mawhinney, lighting by Charlotte Robinson, sound by Stuart Mellor and Composition by The Paper Waits.