Conflict between characters makes for entertaining viewing in any medium. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Royal Exchange’s There Has Possibly Been An Incident.

Sam Pritchard (Royal Exchange New Writing Associate 2010-2012) directs this thought-provoking piece at the Exchange’s Studio. First staged at this year’s Latitude Festival, the production was taken to Edinburgh before being brought home to Manchester.

I climbed the steps of Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre with a curiosity about the performance I was about to see and, frankly, not entirely sure what I’d let myself in for – but 2012 Edinburgh Fringe First winning writer and performer Chris Thorpe’s There Has Possibly Been An Incident turned out to be real food for thought.

The play juxtaposes heroism and compromise through a challenging amalgam of monologues – quite an achievement within the 65 minute run time. This dark and visceral three-hander left me with a great many questions, as well as a little confusion.

Sitting down in The Studio, I was taken aback by the barren set before me: just three chairs. In stark contrast with the elaborate and often times diversionary nature of many sets in theatres today, its simple nature allowed me little distraction from the intensity of the characters in this production.

To this end, Pritchard’s ability to compel the actors to bring the words to life was clear to see. As Pritchard puts it: “The thing I’d say about putting the play on stage is that it has been about shaping as live and direct a relationship between performers and the audience as possible.” Interestingly, the actors had scripts in hand throughout the show, giving it a feel of a rehearsed reading at times. Perhaps being off-book would have added a level of reality to the performances which was sometimes absent.

There were times when the play lacked pace. But, as the characters’ stories progressed, the pace picked up and the intensity became ever more striking. In particular, Nigel Barrett’s delivery was as laugh-out-loud as it was quirky: “Tanks are f*cking big…the weight of these cabbages is the only thing stopping me from running away.” Barrett smashed the fourth wall to pieces and stole the show for me.

Gemma Brockis and Yusra Warsama completed this diverse cast; choices made by Pritchard which allowed for an engrossing theatrical experience. The director went on to explain his focus: “Inviting them (the audience) to engage with, imagine and trace what Chris has written rather than to show or tell them what to think.” To this end, I felt that Pritchard was triumphant.

Here we have three ordinary characters who experience extraordinary things. We are given an insight into their psyche and outlook on life in a short, sharp and slick manner. Thorpe’s excellent writing and director Pritchard’s focus and mastery of the script, together with three good actors, made the play a unique and satisfying night at the wonderful Royal Exchange Theatre.

There Has Possibly Been An Incident is a very modern look at some very modern issues facing the world today, echoing with cogent clarity the thought processes of everyday people faced with extreme circumstances.

Review by Andrew Urquhart

Main image: Richard Lakos

What: There Has Possibly Been An Incident

When: until September 21, 2013

Where: Royal Exchange, Manchester

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