Review: Blindsided, Royal Exchange, Manchester

For all the implied violence in this new Simon Stephens’ play nobody ever actually assaults anyone – not that it stops you wanting to slap one or two characters yourself.

Stephens, one of the country’s most prolific playwrights and currently on a roll with glittering productions in London, is back home in his native Stockport again for a play about half a dozen characters caught up in an unseemly domestic drama.

It’s in the soap opera territory that Julie Hesmondhalgh might have safely thought she’d left behind in Coronation Street just last week, as the terminally-ill Hayley Cropper.

Cathy (Katie West) is a thumb-sucking girl child, with a disabled daughter of her own, and irresistibly attracted to apprentice accountant – and burglar – John (Andrew Sheridan).

Naturally, mother (Hesmondhalgh) disapproves, and best friend Siobhan (Bebecca Callard) hardly helps, by also falling for John’s dubious charms.

Conversations are as perpendicular and perverse as Anna Fleischle’s functional set design. The story heads, eventually, towards areas well worth dramatic exploration, but the journey there feels a little ponderous.

A play that still feels as if it is at the workshop stage, continues here until February 15.

David Upton