Theatre Review: ‘Little Sister’

Thursday 4 August was the opening night of Mark Storor’s latest piece of collaborative theatre, ‘Little Sister’.

Little Sister premiered at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester’s St Ann’s Square, and is scheduled to be showcased at the venue every night until this Sunday 7 August.

The story was inspired by the tale of ‘The Thirteen Swans’, a Brothers Grimm fairytale. Working with a variety of performers and the team at the Royal Exchange, Mark produced a piece that aims to express real experiences with the use of metaphor.

Through performative art and music, a story unfolds, encompassing the experiences of real people who in some way or another feel silenced.

From the very beginning, the performance was griping. As people were finding their seats, several of the cast were already in position, lying motionless on the ground of the stage in various positions.

Each character slowly rose from the ground one-by-one, which made for a tense start to the show. The tension came to an end with the sound of one character letting out a piercing scream.

This theme, of slowly executed movements, disturbed by a fast-paced, loud action, was a regular feature of the performance. At times, it was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop, then a second later be startled by the sound of a scream or a crash.

The props were simplistic, but undoubtedly effective. Everyday items such as cultelry were used in unusual, innovative ways, in order to symbolise deeper feelings or concepts.

There were no visible first-night-nerves from any of the cast, who all delivered confident performances throughout. One performer was particularly impressive, elegantly executing acrobatics on a tightrope. Gliding from top to bottom of the rope and striking various poses as she did, she made an extremely difficult skill look truly effortless.

Two aspects of the show that were crucial to the effectiveness of the performance were the lighting and the music, both of which were timed to perfection.

The lighting varied between dark and bright throughout, dependant on the scene. A bright spotlight was incorporated at the right moments, to emphasise a particular character’s movements, at times when there were many other movements across the stage area.

Music was also a key component of the show, played on various instruments by one of the characters on the stage. The music changed in coordination with the movement, creating an array of different feelings.

One moment which stood out, was the sound of loud noises in time with one character sawing at a desk. Each time the saw was forced forward, cutting through the wood, the cello let out a striking sound, which was extremely powerful – akin to other scenes.

The finale was a creative, picturesque spectacle. Fairy lights were pulled from underground and wrapped around one of the cast, who stood at centre-stage. An abundance of different rolls of cellotape then came down from the ceiling and were attached to her, causing an array of different colours to reflect from the lights onto the strands of tape. Feathers then fell from the ceiling and fluttered to the ground all around her.

Once the performance came to an end, the audience erupted into enthusiastic applause. As the characters bowed to each side of the crowd, the applause and cheering continued for some minutes, until the cast waved and began to leave the stage.

Little Sister is a piece of work that is truly unique and rather impossible to describe to those who haven’t experienced it first-hand.

The show could be a little difficult to follow at times for some audience members, but many aspects of the performance are open to individual interpretation. Overall, it is a well-composed and executed piece.

TNT Arts & Culture Natasha Dunn

Photo Credit: Royal Exchange

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