Katie Crowder

Renny Krupinski
The Oldham Coliseum Theatre and Moxie Under Fire
The Oldham Coliseum Studio, Oldham
08 September 2015 to 12 September 2015

The Oldham Coliseum makes a welcome addition to the number of Manchester theatres with a Studio space in which to host more intimate plays. The venue has excellent sightlines and its rough and ready authenticity – tucked at the rear of the circle bar and with pipework clearly visible – is perfect for Katie Crowder; Renny Krupinski’s story of backstage bitchiness and desperation.

Like Godot the title character does not appear in the play but Katie Crowder’s influence hangs over proceedings acting as an unintentional catalyst for events in the relationship between two jobbing actors. The friendship between Bill Ashton (author Krupinski who also directs) and Martin Grosvenor (Ralph Casson) is based on a mutual awareness of how low they are in the professional pecking order. But the camaraderie is threatened when Bill begins to suspect that Martin has slept with Deputy Stage Manager Katie Crowder (voiced by Kaitlin Howard).

Remember those heartwarming old films based backstage at a theatre that conclude there is no business like showbusiness? Well,Katie Crowder is not one of those. Despite the programme featuring spoof biographies of the fictional cast the tone of the play is bleak; which, to an extent is refreshing and certainly realistic. Krupinski catches how petty irritants like identifying who ate the last biscuit assume a disproportionate importance in the workplace. After a while, however, the relentless bitterness becomes wearying; if I want to listen to people bitch about being compelled to do jobs they hate I can just go into work.

The performances are excellent. Ralph Casson gives a moving interpretation of someone trying that bit too hard to give the impression of being urbane and above it all. The intensity of Renny Krupinski’s performance brings to mind someone who seems unaware how close he is to a meltdown. Despite the friction between the characters the actors generate a real sense of worn affection.

Director Krupinski manages a real surprise in the change of scene between Acts. Yet the limited development in the first Act means that at times it amounts to little more than two blokes talking. Overall, the story is slim and there are not sufficient clues or hints to make the twist at the end credible. The author seems uncertain as to whether to end the play on a bitter or comedic note and so gives one of each, which diminishes the impact.

Reviewer: David Cunningham

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Comment by Diana Stenson

Yes the studio space is a welcome addition to the Coliseum’s performing options but there is a detail to watch.  Sound travels up from the main auditorium and currently this is a  very noisy  musical.  Happily “Katie Crowder” is such an absorbing trip that the distraction seems to fade away.

The World of Luvvies is awash with anecdotes of tantrums, crushing barbs and the occasional surprise acts of kindness although the roles of  our jobbing actors are  seriously  short of the latter.  Unlike David I was not struck by any worn affection between Martin and Bill, only their incessant nit-picking and cruel insults which almost defeated the first half, gripping though it is.

The second act moves onwards several years, and location, to a “coincidental” meeting in a pub.   Truths are now revealed and a shift of balance emerges between the two misfits which pitches back into the old cruel  ripostes.    Krupinski does not render any late redeeming characteristics to make his audience sympathise with one more than the other.  However the script is a clever and fruitful hunting ground for the ultimate put-down and accompanying humour.