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Dissociation, the latest play from writer/director Luke Bailey, debuts in the Lowry Studio. Set in a time of rising tension, it explores the life of aspiring musician, Talloach, and his attempts to rebuild his life after his release from a young offenders institution where he was sentenced after taking the heat for the rest of his crew.
Powerfully written and performed from the outset, Dissociation is the sort of play that not only hits the audience straight between the eyes but knocks them out and completely pulls them into the action. Talloach is vividly brought to life by an amazing actor in Tachia Newall. His character is a complex mix of contradictions. On the surface, he’s the guy who just wants to make music, whilst putting up the tough man facade to protect himself from his own personal past. Bailey’s deft writing combined with Newall’s vivid performance turn Talloach into much more than this mere stereotype. The quieter scenes with his counsellor totally draw the audience’s attention and leave everybody longing for him to achieve all his dreams.
While Talloach is the focus of the play, his foils need to be equally as effective to make the piece really come together and here indeed they do. Venice (Errol Smith), the self appointed leader of the pack is a toothpick chewing ball of volatile menace while Yussuf M’rabty and Steven Hamill provide decent back up in the South Manchester Guerrillas. Holliday Grainger produces an emotional performance as Talloach’s housemate, veering from innocent bravado to terrified victim in the blink of an eye and is yet another on stage presence who manages to grab the audience in her quieter and more understated moments.
The major question the play asks is how much social mobility is available to those of ambition from less privileged backgrounds, or rather how much is allowed from those above. A character has to pull out of college after funding is cut and Talloach, himself has to face some tough decisions to break free of his own background. It’s credit to Bailey’s writing and the performers that this play never feels like a political statement but more a personal journey of hope that leaves you rooting for the characters.
The final few scenes however, which arrive at breakneck speed against a background of violence and strobe lighting, maybe didn’t feel as effective as they could have. There just seemed something a little rough around the edges of the direction, compared to the rest of the play but, if tightened up, this play with its strong cast and great writing is a powerful, thought provoking piece of theatre.