Award-winning writer and actor Rob Ward returns to the Fringe with his latest creation The MP, Aunty Mandy & Me. His previous play Gypsy Queen did the rounds to considerable acclaim and now his talent has been recognised in a Peter Shaffer commission through the National Theatre to write a play for Leicester’s Curve Theatre.
A gripping story brilliantly told
A man with a fixation for railway engines is likely to have other issues in life. The Mallard did make 126 mph in 1928, creating the steam speed record that has never been surpassed, but running around your sitting room with a Hornby model of it at Dom’s age seems a little excessive. He’s also a would-be presence on social media, if only people would respond to him. On the gay scene, of which there isn’t any in his quiet northern village, he’s not helped by his name which is contrary to his being a sub. He’d love to be part of the big-city gay set, but he doesn’t live there and his levels of anxiety and ineptitude would probably prevent him from going out anyway. Then there’s his mum, who hilariously must be the only woman to have a gay son and for her to be the one who takes the MDMA, the Aunty Mandy of the title, as if Dom doesn’t have enough to cope with.
Now the news has come through that his local railway station is to be closed and he becomes the outraged, furious and devastated Dom who feels compelled to seek the support of his MP in a battle to save the line. To his amazement the man turns out to be a friend of Dorothy and the one who will turn his world upside down. He is soon working as his intern and engaging in sexual activities that he had never imagined in his wildest dreams. Added to the mix is a bisexual member of the campaign team who further complicates matters. And all this in Brinton!
The tight staging, which makes for an intimate production, nevertheless allows space for locations to be established. There is a soundscape that enhances the moods and imagery and a fabulous lighting design that uses colour to give added intensity to some of the wilder moments, especially between the clubbing and bedroom scenes. Two large diffusers either side of the stage provide stunning effects with purple-blue hues creating a haunting surreal aura and the impression that Dom, in his imagination, is entering into the glam world of celebs. Thanks to Will Monks and Lain Armstrong for this
These effects all contribute to the milieu, but this is Ward's show. His clear enunciation and Wirral twang make him instantly appealing and the voices he creates for the various characters capture the essence of them. He also establishes an air of mystery as to where all this is going, varying the pace and balancing narrative with conversation interjected with a good measure of wit.
The MP, Aunty Mandy & Me is a gripping story brilliantly told.