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Review | Shed: Exploded View | Royal Exchange Theatre | 15/02/2024

Royal Exchange Theatre have bagged another World Premiere after last years ‘untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play.’ This time comes Phoebe Eclair-Powell’s Bruntwood Prize winning play, ‘Shed: Exploded View.’

Unlike other shows, Royal Exchange have been careful not to divulge too much about this one. At its core this focuses on three couples over a thirty year period, following all of lives moments whilst shining a light on violence and abuse.

With each of these moments, a character writes an encompassing quote in chalk on the circular revolving stage, signifying that moment. This worked well with the stage becoming increasingly covered in life’s headlines. Through this we see similar events affecting different people in wildly different ways.

The staging itself is impressive, with multiple revolves that move in different directions and at different speeds. One of the better uses of a revolve, this successfully adds tension whilst being equally effecting and effective. This was juxtaposed beautifully with Bethany Gupwell’s incredible lighting design, which is some of the best I’ve seen at this iconic venue. Not content with generic lighting options, the cracks in the revolve were also used as a lighting to denote shattered glass which worked extremely well.

The non-linear narrative worked well in keeping things interesting. Where it let itself down however was that this made it hard to get to know the characters. It was difficult to care about and understand the characters with so may different stories going on over a broken narrative. To begin with it was also difficult to follow and connect with the piece, however once it got going it became easier and therefore more enjoyable.

Shed: Exploded View shows how closely related both love and violence can be, whilst also explores what constitutes violence. With such polar opposites at play, the themes are explored in a more delicate way. This unfortunately makes it less gripping and shocking than it perhaps could have been. I wanted to ‘feel’ more, almost be made to be uncomfortable with some of the more emotive themes. The more delicate interpretation alongside with having less connection to the characters, it didn’t hit me as hard as I expected it to.The acting talent on stage however is superb and should be applauded. Particular mention goes to Will Johnson as Tony, who gave an acting masterclass with his portrayal of Dementia in such a real way. This was particularly impactful, had more of the play had this level of drama then it would have been more powerful.

Shed: Exploded View is on at Royal Exchange Theatre until Saturday 2 March 2024.

Note: My ticket was gifted. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.


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