Review: Blindsided, Royal Exchange

“He puts his hand in your knickers and promises the world”

Lord this was grim. Hard-going, unlikeable and sterile – much of Simon Stephens’ writing has felt like this for me (as opposed to his adaptations) and so it can be something of a slog until one breaks through the revelatory moment that he often provides. But Blindsided never really got there, despite some excellent work from Julie Hesmondhalgh – making a bold move now that Hayley Cropper is coming a cropper – as the adult Cathy who has comes to terms with something shocking.

We first meet Cathy as a much younger woman though and see the seeds of what will happen coming from a tough upbringing in an unforgiving part of Stockport and her meeting with a darkly enigmatic man. But there’s something very artificial about the whole thing – there’s nothing discernible connecting the two versions of Cathy we meet – her rebirth is too much of a copout without any hint of redemptive quality in her – and the world(s) around her are poorly populated, the supporting character mere wisps.

And the nakedly political narratives – both the early Thatcher government and the infancy of New Labour are heavily referenced – feel mainly designed to get laughs rather than an integral part of the fabric of the show. But Stephens’ plays rarely go the way you think they will and that’s when the magic can happen, when something unexpected comes shining through. For me though, the darkness was too unremitting here. 

Running time:2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Kevin Cummins

Booking until 15th February

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