Theatre Review: PARLIAMENT SQUARE – Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

PARLIAMENT SQUARE at Royal Exchange Theatre

Shocking, gripping and thought-provoking, PARLIAMENT SQUARE is a powerful play about the fallout of political protest

It’s fair to say that playwright James Fritz is riding on a high. His debut play FOUR MINUTES TWELVE SECONDS was nominated for an Olivier Award before transferring to London’s West End and his follow-up play ROSS & RACHEL opened to critical acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015. Fritz’s third play, the Bruntwood award-winning PARLIAMENT SQUARE, also looks to be a hit, as it makes its world premiere this week at Manchester’s Royal Exchange.

PARLIAMENT SQUARE tells the story of Kat, a young wife and mother who is increasingly angry and frustrated at the world around her. Compelled to take action, Kat leaves her family behind and travels to London to carry out a 15 second act of self-sacrifice that will change her life and – she hopes – everyone else’s.

Shocking, gripping and incredibly thought-provoking, PARLIAMENT SQUARE is a powerful play about the fallout of political protest. Fritz’s hard-hitting script skilfully explores the line between complete commitment and dangerous obsession, interrogating the draw of extreme demonstration in a surprisingly compassionate way.

From Fly Davis’ minimalist set to Jack Knowles’ dramatic lighting design, every inch of the play has been stripped back to focus in the characters, with Kat not only battling her conscious in the hours leading up her act but also the eventual fallout as the consequences of her actions impact those around her. The result is a vital scream against injustice and a powerful piece of theatre that leaves you with more questions than answers.

Esther Smith is excellent in the physically and emotionally demanding role of Kat, a woman torn between her love for her family and her passion for the cause. Smith is supported by an equally strong cast, with Joanne Howarth as Kat’s mother and Seraphina Beh as Catherine particularly standing out.

But the real beauty of the play lies in the way it forces us to confront some of the most urgent questions we face today. The play leaves you questioning whether one individual can really effect change and whether political protest really does make a difference, long after you’ve left the theatre.

4 out of 5 stars

PARLIAMENT SQUARE runs at the Royal Exchange until 28 October 2017 before transferring to London until 6 January 2018.