The days are getting shorter, but comedy rests for no fan.
Tonight, it’s another foray into the Women in Comedy Festival for Strife In A Northern Town, a two-woman show that pitches itself as “a hilarious, fast-paced tale of sex, death, corruption, friendship, family and Latvian cigarettes”.
For writer, producer and performer Jennifer Banks, the show is about more than laughs, too. She hopes it will go some way to highlighting the absence of theatre opportunities for working class performers.
“Staging a working class show and getting a different voice heard helps chip away at the current imbalance,” she says.
She’s joined onstage by Tracy Gabbitas and between them they cover a range of characters that we’re told we’ll recognise from any town in the North.
So, who are they? And will we?
We start of with a pair of supermarket workers, as downbeat Donna bemoans her lot with sex-crazed colleague Tracey, who’s barely listening.
There’s also one-upping receptionists Pepsi and Lulu, poorly-matched couple Valerie and Kay and (our personal favourite) cantankerous pensioner Maureen.
The dialogue is snappy and does indeed occasionally sound like a snippet of chat you might overhear walking down Market Street on a Saturday afternoon. There’s something irresistible about a sweary Northern retort and there are plenty of those to enjoy.
Any awkwardness there might have been during costume changes is offset by an excellent playlist. We can kick back with a bit of Iggy & The Stooges while wigs are swapped and scenes set.
Having said that, a particular highlight is a scene that requires the presence of several characters. Banks and Gabbitas leap from chair to chair in a whirl of hats, glasses and scarves and it’s up to us to keep track of things!
The obvious pride that the performers and director Rhonwen McCormack have for this show is evident and keeps it engaging as the stories intertwine to create a satisfying conclusion.
For us, a nice thing about Strife In A Northern Town is that, before we decided to start writing about comedy in Manchester, we didn’t really venture beyond solo stand-up performers. The idea of a play wouldn’t have entered our minds. Broadening our horizons in this way is really rewarding.
We should do it more often.
Strife In A Northern Town has progressed to the second stage of Hat Trick Productions’ ‘Your Voice, Your Story’ competition.
Meanwhile, the Women in Comedy Festival has wrapped up for the year. We’d love to know what your favourite show was, so give us a shout over on Twitter and tell us what you enjoyed.
It’ll give us something to read while we work out why we haven’t been given 280 characters.