‘When a man has lost all happiness, he’s not alive. Call him a breathing corpse’– Sophocles
For most University of Manchester students, Antwerp will hold some pretty interesting connotations, including being one of the city’s most dilapidated nightclubs (you should see the toilets, honestly), however at half past six on a freezing Friday evening, my friends and I were attending Antwerp for a totally different reason. My friend Jemima had told us about a play by the drama society: Breathing Corpses- a chilling, cyclical tale where a body is discovered, which leads to a series of morbid revelations: how well do you really know yourself, and the people around you? We all agreed it was an opportunity it would be totally stupid for us to pass up.
“As a University of Manchester student, there are so many things to do in a city that truly never sleeps…”
The play’s summary? A hotelmaid. A dog. A box. A knife. Seven people pretending to be other people- How did they get where they are? These people like you and me? How did they get where they are, and where are they going?
The play. Breathing Corpses. A dark comedy. That’s not funny.
Sounds pretty disturbing, right? Also, the tickets were only a fiver (completely student-bank-balance-friendly) and the money was supporting the drama society- so a complete win-win!
The choice of Antwerp as the play’s venue was a fantastic decision- the cold air and stale stench of alcohol and cigarettes created a creepy, uncomfortable atmosphere, especially as all of the actors were on stage half an hour before the performance started while the audience were still taking their seats, making repetitive movements and casting chilling glares on some unfortunate and innocent audience members with vacant, bleak eyes. I felt uncomfortable- and suitably so- from before the play had even started until the very end. The strobe lighting and terrifying sound effects also came together to form a truly disturbing, unsettling performance, one which has haunted me and undeniably many an audience member ever since. I definitely felt a persistent sense of claustrophobia: I was so absorbed in the suspense of the story that when the lights came on at the end I still felt a distinct sense of discomfort. No wonder: Breathing Corpses is a play that reflects upon death, the ways in which it affects us, and how twisted and warped human relationships can truly be.
However, the chilling storyline could not have been so effective if it wasn’t for the incredible director (Lauren Savage), producer (Joe Kroese) and actors, all members of the University’s drama society. The play was consciously faultless in direction and action throughout. All actors had such dynamic relationships on stage, and their performances were as vigorous as they were intricate and dense. The actors who stood out for me were Tom Mackintosh (who played Jim), Bethany Armstrong (who played Kate) and Joe Mayer (who played Ben), whose scenes had me tense and incredibly apprehensive as to what could happen next, which brought the whole play together as something which couldn’t be ignored or overlooked.
As a University of Manchester student, there are so many things to do in a city that truly never sleeps, and especially for people who don’t enjoy regular Manchester nightlife (if you catch Antwerp at any other time- be warned!) there are so many opportunities to discover something new. I will definitely be looking to see what the drama society put on next, and would highly encourage you to go and attend one of their plays whether you regularly go the theatre or not- they are a great company and the tickets are so cheap- it would surely be a crime not to.