The skylines of Manchester and Salford are littered with towering cranes. Skyscrapers are constantly springing up, consisting of luxury apartments and five star hotels. Affordable housing is becoming increasingly scarce. Whilst regeneration is seen as signifying a city’s prosperity, little thought is given to the properties demolished and the local communities destroyed by it. Residents of Salford will be familiar with this as hundreds of people were displaced, and their homes were knocked down to make way for “Media City yuppies“.
Chris Hoyle’s new play, Tinned Up depicts life inside 10 Brook Street, as 63 year old Shirley Parkin refuses to move out of her two-up-two-down terrace house in Salford. Shirley has lived on this street most of her life and doesn’t want to leave. She is the only resident left in a desolate street, where all other properties have been “tinned up” and “all materials of value have been removed“.
Firstly, it is refreshing to see a play with such fantastic female working-class roles, as Shirley is visited by her friends who have moved away. Joy is a struggling single mother, Beryl is foul-mouthed, with language as dirty as her feet, and Sue puts on airs and graces. Sue successfully camped out in the street to get one of the new “upside down houses“, complete with a wet room. There aren’t enough female working-class roles like this on the stage, so it is great to see local playwright, Chris Hoyle, create such compelling characters.
Hoyle’s script is delightfully packed with witty northern humour, deftly creating a heartwarming comedy out of a serious situation. His characters are instantly relatable, and the comedy works because we all know people like them. There is a lovely relationship built between Shirley and local teenage stoner, Daz, who bakes her “space cakes“, which are “purely for medicinal purposes“. Hoyle crafts a touching grandmother/grandson-like relationship, which is utterly endearing. Shirley nurtures Daz and encourages him to learn to read. It is not surprising to find out that when he attends evening cookery classes, he finds a talent for baking, becoming Salford’s Mr Kipling.
Karen Henthorn excels as Shirley, giving a sterling performance that anchors the play. She is brilliantly funny, as she avoids paying her TV license, covering her telly and hiding the remote underneath the couch every time somebody knocks on the door. She spends most of the play wearing absurd duck slippers, and answers the telephone in a posh voice. The highlight of the play is when she gets bladdered drinking Ouzo with Lynn Roden’s Beryl, dancing to Tom Jones, and finishing the night crawling on her knees.
Henthorn is an incredibly skilled comic performer but also renders her character’s loneliness and isolation, as she lives on a street alone, mourning the loss of the community spirit, and takes up the fight to save the local park from developers. Facing eviction, Shirley’s tenacity, determination, and resilience is inspirational. Something we can all learn from in the current political climate.
The supporting cast do a good job. Relatively inexperienced young actor, Keaton Lansley, shows that he has a promising future ahead. He delivers a well-rounded performance as Daz, who matures throughout Tinned Up, ditching the trackies, growing up, and getting his own place to live. Sadly, there are several moments when some of the cast forget their lines and miss their cues. This may have just been on the opening night, and I think such mistakes would have been corrected over the course of the play’s run of three nights.
The choice of music is inspired, ranging from Ghost Town by The Specials, to Madness’ Our House and Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A Changin’. However, these songs cover quite lengthy scene transitions, which disrupt the pacing of the play. There are also times when the movement on stage seems quite static, when people stand or sit for long periods talking. This may have worked in rehearsal, but when performing on Oldham Coliseum’s large stage, it just seems that a lot of the space isn’t fully utilised.
Tinned Up is still a supremely funny play that displays Chris Hoyle’s talent as a playwright. Made in collaboration with 53two, it forms part of Oldham Coliseum’s fantastic Main House Takeover initiative, in which the Coliseum give over their main stage for a week to support local emerging talent. It is an amazing idea, and more theatres should follow their example.