The QT

Friday 14 June 2024

Review: The Bounds at Live Theatre

Stewart Pringle’s new play gets its first run on Tyneside before a Royal Court transfer. Lesley Oldfield reports back from the touchline.
The Bounds at Live Theatre. Credit: Von Fox Promotions

Two friends stand on a hillside. Well, they stand bickering on a hillside! And from this viewpoint, somewhere between the Northumberland villages of Allendale and Catton, a rich tale unfolds.

These two, Percy and Ro, are full of passion and attitude and enjoy sharing the stories of a huge, unseen cast of Allendale folk. Their banter has the audience at Newcastle’s Live Theatre giggling and laughing from the get go.

They are out for matchday, an annual event with all the tribalism of modern day football, but none of the rules, and a pitch stretching up to four miles wide. People die playing this game, we’re told.

The play, by Allendale-born Stewart Pringle, was inspired by the story of how football began, back in the 1500s, when the world was a scarier place – or was it?

Love for family and friends, loyalty and betrayal, and tests of character are at the heart of the play, bringing real sadness and empathy, as well as the laughs, thanks to the brilliant performances.

Ryan Nolan, a quietly rising North East star who never fails to deliver, plays Percy, a young man with a strong sense of his identity, a quick tongue, and a quick temper.

Lauren Waine impresses as Rowan, a woman every bit as lively as Percy, who enjoys a prank and whose bawdy humour and vivid imagination are not always well received, we learn.

L to R: Soroosh Lavasani, Lauren Waine and Ryan Nolan in The Bounds. Credit: Von Fox Promotions

Just to warn you that their language is very sweary indeed – though it always seems fitting.

The pair are players in this match, assigned to defend an outpost, far from the action, where they are joined by the mysterious and richly dressed Samuel, who is perfectly played by Soroosh Lavasani.

Why is he there? Where did he come from? What does he want? His arrival coincides with other changes and we see religion and politics combine to exert their power on this remote hillside (sparingly designed by Verity Quinn) causing the audience to catch their breath.

Director Jack McNamara strikes just the right tone throughout, from the jaunty beginning to the serious progression and powerful conclusion.

And the work of fight/movement director Alicia Meehan must also be commended for making best use of a tight spot.

The play is a joint production with the Royal Court Theatre in London, so if you miss it in Newcastle, there is another opportunity to catch it.

The Bounds runs at Live Theatre until June 8. Visit the website or call the box office on 0191 232 1232 for tickets.

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