Last week was the first anniversary of the Manchester bombings. That night, 22 people were killed and many more were injured at an Ariana Grande concert. One of those 22 was Martyn Hett.
This show isn’t about terrorism or the terrorists. It’s not about dark times or hate. It’s about joy and love and friendship. It’s a loving tribute to a very special person.
#BeMoreMartyn is verbatim theatre; the dialogue has been directly taken from interviews with eight of Martyn’s closest friends. It must have been hard to choose only eight, as Martyn was clearly the life and soul of the party and extremely popular. You might have already heard of Martyn. He was the Coronation Street super-fan who went on E4’s Tattoo Fixers to get a Deirdre Barlow tattoo on his leg. Through the words of his friends, we discover that Martyn was out, loud and very proud. He loved his divas (Mariah especially) and had them plastered all over his bathroom walls. He bought himself a bar for his flat and he christened it The Frig. There he hosted all-night parties and invited everyone and anyone - as long as they were happy to listen to Mariah, who was always on the playlist, and were not perturbed by the life-size cut out of Corrie’s Gail Platt. He was brave in the face of adversity and never denied his true self, even after suffering from a homophobic attack.
From the moment I entered The Warren’s Theatre Box, the full cast were on stage, dancing, chatting and drinking. As they celebrated Martyn’s life, it felt like the world’s happiest wake. However, having such a large cast in a small space was problematic. When it was the turn for one of them to talk, the others listened in awkwardly. They blankly gazed at the speaker, seemingly unsure as to how to react or to respond and much of the blocking looked too posed and unnatural. With so many present on stage and constant chopping and changing between speakers, it was often difficult to understand who was who and what their relationship with Martyn was; they amalgamated into one. The most developed character was that of Russell, Martyn’s boyfriend, played with subtle emotional depth by Matthew Forey. Also, by only hearing the thoughts and feelings of friends and not others in Martyn’s life, it does feel like a one note representation. Despite spending over an hour in their company, I felt that there was much about Martyn I still didn’t know.
There were some extremely touching moments, which moved the audience greatly. Knowing that Martyn was two days away from a long planned trip to America when he died gave added poignancy to an already heartbreaking story. One of the best scenes was a celebration of Manchester’s Canal Street, an oasis in the lives of these young people in the process of discovering who they want to be. With the added anecdotes about the support received from Coronation Street, it evoked a real sense of the unique Manchester community spirit that has always existed and truly helped pull everyone together after the attack.
However, the star of the show was Martyn himself. Clips from his appearance on Couples Come Dine With Me and home footage of him waking Russell and impersonating Deirdre are genuinely hilarious. Martyn clearly had an incredible star talent that completely fixates you. The only problem with showing these clips is that everything else looks a little dimmer away from the light of his presence.
#BeMoreMartyn is a warm-hearted and well meaning play and it showcases the very best of his life. This show isn’t about terrorism or the terrorists. It’s not about dark times or hate. It’s about joy and love and friendship. It’s a loving tribute to a very special person. On the way in, I was given a Mariah Carey badge. When I wear it, I’ll wear it with pride and know that it’ll always remind me to #BeMoreMartyn.