Absolute Certainty, Theatre Review. Tribeca Bar, Manchester.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10

Cast: Dafydd Shalders, Benjamin Longthorne, Barney Thompson.

Stewart Campbell’s Absolute Certainty at the Tribeca Bar is part of the Manchester Fringe events. The venue is situated in the LGBT quarter around Sackville Street in Manchester. It is an urban tale of an 18-year-old Finn (Dafydd Shalders) who is finishing off his ‘A’ Levels under the watchful eye of his elder brother, the club surfing Dean (Barney Thompson) and his ever-present work mate Lee (Benjamin Longthorne).

Longthorne’s character Lee is by no means a sexual predator and more of an empathetic life mentor but is protective of the young man as he has to suffer the constant jibes of his elder sibling. It is this uncertainty about the sexuality of either that creates the tension in the piece. Their potential relationship is built on mutual respect, matey rapport and making the best of limited resources. However it is not made inevitable that they will finally click physically.

The script allows all three actors some space to develop their characters quite early on in his 50-minute play. The intimate set is essentially a single bed, a side table and a light. However, through the soundtrack complete with D.J., we are invited to imagine couple of night club scenes where the thus far diligent Finn ultimately gets drunk amidst his elder brother’s babe hunt. His more cautious and sensitive best mate, Lee seems always wanting to leave these dens of inequity, inevitably finding his way back to the house where Finn provides more compelling company.

Campbell’s skilful use of simple domestic dilemmas gives the show its key comedic punch lines. Barney’s revelation that he was waiting for the shower to warm up whilst he went to the toilet made for a funny moment yet came at a key point in his brother’s awakening – a skilful use of words to sum up a delicate situation. Alcohol is never far away from the housemates’ lips, but it is becoming clear that Finn is not impressed by his elder brother’s disrespectful attitude to the opposite sex. Dean might be a bit of a lad, but he is no slouch though in recognising his brother’s infatuation with Lee. The talk about the ‘birds and the bees’ is hilarious with Finn finally rebelling against the paternal role Dean awkwardly adopts.

Whilst the naïve yet curious Shalders and the headstrong Thompson are given the well crafted gags, it is Longthorne who glues the dialogue together with some excellent timing and movement which allows the dialogue to breathe. It is indeed a fine team effort and well directed by Stewart Campbell.

If there is a criticism, the set was rather cramped with the audience inadvertently in danger of tripping the actors up at times. Although such scarcity is pretty standard for fringe venues and an audience mustn’t grumble if they witness the actors coping well with the space.

A sign of a good production is that you are left wanting more and there is every chance that the scenario could play out to a more extended piece. However, as it stands, Absolute Certainty would hold its own at other notable fringe venues such Edinburgh and Brighton. The sell-out audience who launched into spontaneous applause certainly seemed to agree.

A triumph of words over adversity.

Keith Thompson.