Star rating – 4/10
It feels churlish to find so much fault with a play that is being put on at the Royal Exchange’s Studio after winning a great playwriting competition. But I am sorry to say that in ‘Winterlong’ by Andrew Sheridan, the issue is the writing. It is the sad story of Oscar who has been abandoned by his useless parents aged 4 into the care of his grandparents. But his Granddad never loved him so when his Nanna dies of cancer he has no one to turn to. But there needs to be more attention to plot and finesse in the storytelling, instead of shock value being wrung from every line.
The problem is certainly not with the acting - both the more accomplished and the youthful actors impress in equal measure. Harry McEntire is great as the young Oscar, who is innocent, and sad, and infuriating at the same time. Gabrielle Reidy and Paul Copley are also excellent as his struggling grandparents, who find it hard to show any emotion at all in their forlorn lives, either to each other, or to their charge Oscar. And various other shocking incidents and people cross Oscar’s path along the way. Sadly, what could have been a moving and interesting play never really moves out of first gear. Oscar is the only character with any real depth. The play is funny in only a very few places, and tasteless in many many more. Encouraging new writing is laudable, and is always worth taking a chance on, but it is a shame that this feels like something of a wasted opportunity.