When the play begins, we realise she was a part of it. It is a relief because there was something about that photograph. He wasn't just a much-loved boy gone missing, he was a young man with learning disabilities. Suddenly we are made aware of a completely different level of vulnerability. The attractive Downs Syndrome woman who also asked us "Have you seen my friend?" is also part of the cast.
Face Front Inclusive Theatre does everything it says on the tin. They don't dodge any of the social emotional issues of handicap. The young man's journey into adulthood has all the pitfalls most people face - a distant 'father' who was never around, the pangs of new love, the divided loyalty of staying with a dedicated lonely mother or striking out on his own - PLUS his learning difficulties.
Time was represented in dance and song by two very active characters. Their theatrical presence is brilliantly enhanced by an ingenious lighting and set design that almost pulls us all into its inexorable vortex. Brian Cox calls it the 'Forward arrow of Time'. Martin has to 'seize the day', but his protective and adoring mother has given him scant practice in choosing his own course throughout his growing up. They jointly keep a launderette, all the mother needs to sustain him, until they are threatened with eviction. He is attracted by the lovely Zoe and pulled between two women he loves, when father returns and teaches him the ways of the world in his first ever 'night out'!
The entire drama is worked through with a visually-compelling staging, backed by spell-binding theatre technology. Though the performances were a little inconsistent, the narrative thread holds our attention throughout. The main characters: Martin, sensitively played by Peter Faventi and Zoe, played by Ellen Goodey draw us into their dilemma. We want to reach out and help them, but begin to see, like Martin's mother, Marjorie, played by Julie McNamara, that we can best help by trusting the young people to make their decisions. In short, it is the agony of all parents writ large. "Let go!" Ray Downing, gives a very credible fecklessness to father, Ralph, who has marked twenty-one years of Martin's life by not even sending his son a birthday card. How well the writers (who act Martin's mum and dad!) observe these types are often the most adored of parents.
Becky Allen and David Sands were choreographed to perfection in their representation of Time. Furthermore they allow BSL sharers to interpret the play - signing every word, though never intruding on the narrative flow. The play was a wonderful achievement for the group, under the direction of Annie Smol, but sadly the performance I went to was attended by a very small audience. It is a great tribute to the professionalism of Face Front Theatre that this factor made no difference to the fine quality of their work.