Platform 3 at Stockport train station may seem an odd location for a play, but it seems strangely fitting for Gare Du Nord Theatre‘s production, The Suitcase, The Beggar & the Wind, part of Manchester’s GM Fringe festival.
In a disused waiting room on platform 3, a beggar (Jon Martin) plays his guitar, and watches passers-by. His impressive repertoire, from The House of the Rising Sun to Stand By Me, is worth more than the 20p casually thrown his way by a busy commuter (Martine Kristelle Anson). When confronted, she replies “Sorry, I am just passing by”. More passers-by walk through the waiting room, getting strange reactions from people disembarking from London Euston bound Virgin Trains.
Commuters carry on with their busy lives, ignorant of the station’s comings and goings. But how often do we stop to pay attention to people’s conversations? Do we ever wonder what their dreams are? If they didn’t have to get the train to work, where would they rather go?
The next train from Platform 3 is the 20:27 green train to the sea.
The Suitcase, The Beggar & The Wind dramatically explores the hopes and dreams of ordinary commuters, focalised through the perspective of the ever-present beggar. It is a concept that works well in this location.
Occurring over two days, the play follows an arguing couple, as each engages in conversation with a random passer-by. They both want to escape from the mundanity of their lives, sharing lengthy descriptions of their dreams with strangers. From visiting flea markets to moving to the countryside, these idyllic fancies are a world away from the busy train platform, the suitcase, the beggar, and the wind.
“We can take the blue train to Bordeaux. Or the green train to the sea” the passer-by exclaims. This resonates with those who dream of going to those exciting places labelled on the train platform. Would you rather get a train to Milton Keynes or Paris? Sadly, reality intrudes, and you end up getting the boring train. In The Suitcase, The Beggar & The Wind, the couple have to get the last train home, leaving their dreams behind them on the platform.
The same happens the following day to the other partner.
The cyclical nature of the play feels a little repetitive. This isn’t helped by the same dialogue being used across both conversations. Perhaps slightly altering the language could help the play’s dialogue feel more spontaneous and less contrived. Although the repetitive nature of the performance could equally signify the mundane repetition of life.
The performances are strong by the entire ensemble cast, however Jon Martin‘s beggar provides the backbone to the play. Remaining on stage throughout, his interjections, butting-in to the action, are well timed and comical. He deserves the highest praise for playing the guitar throughout entire the play without hitting a bad note. I would definitely throw a couple of quid into his guitar case.
Although slightly repetitious, this is still a well conceived, thought-provoking play. Life is a train station we are all passing through. Maybe we need to take time to step back and realise our dreams.