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Review | The Gap | Hope Mill Theatre | 20/02/2024

Known for bringing great theatre with outstanding acting talent in an intimate setting, Hope Mill Theatre’s reputation is recognised nationally. With this acclaim comes expectation with each production they put on. Fortunately The Gap is an undeniable hit!

This world premiere production, from renowned Lancashire playwright Jim Cartwright is filled this play with northern charm throughout. We follow friends Corral (Denise Welch) and Walter (Matthew Kelly) on a lifelong journey’s, both together and apart.

We first meet the inseparable pair as they try to decide whether to escape northern life for the bright lights of London or stay put. This immediately makes the audience invest in them both, despite their very clear differences. Even as they find their own paths in life, the audience still care for each of them due to strong character development through Cartwright’s trademark dialogue. The only place where this perhaps misfires is in the first act when an abundance of 50s/60s references alienate younger audiences members who miss out on a long run of jokes, myself included.

As ever for Hope Mill’s productions, they have utilised the space beautifully. The use of projections on sliding walls works really well at moving the story along. A more central view would be advisable though, as being sat to one side can take away from the magic of theatre, with stagehands being seen at several points. This is of course a minor gripe, but one that did take me out of the moment on occasion.

The acting in this two hander was undeniably fantastic. Denise Welch shines as Corral, bringing warmth and heart to each and every moment. Whilst her character may not always be the easiest to be friends with, Walter (Matthew Kelly) helps create a believable and tight bond between the pair. Welch in particular had the crowd in the palm of her hand in the racier scenes. When we see her as a sex telephone line worker, the entire crowd were in hysterics. There are some real belly laughs throughout that make this show the perfect tonic to a cold February evening. It isn’t all fun and giggles, with some beautifully tender scenes breaking hearts as the play concludes.

It is never fully confirmed what ‘the gap’ actually is. Is it geographical? Is it time spent apart? Or is it clothing related as Corral leads us to believe! One thing is for sure though, this new play has something for everyone with the careful balance of tender and comedy.

The Gap is on at Hope Mill Theatre until 16 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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