Almost as if Doctor Who crash-landed on Coronation Street, Ian Kershaw’s The Greatest Play in the History of the World… serves up a warm cup of tea with a side order of sci-fi. After all, Kershaw and his wife, actress Julie Hesmondhalgh who singlehandedly narrates this adventure, have both worked on Corrie.
The play is set on Manchester’s Preston Road, where, early one morning, time stops and our hero and heroine lock eyes across a deserted street. If the boy-meets-girl aspect feels a little played out, there is plenty of mystery to be unravelled, and a pair of fascinating elderly neighbours who are building a peculiar thing in their shed.
Kershaw wrote the one-woman play for Hesmondhalgh as a gift, and it’s easy to see how naturally the flow of the language suits her. Bringing a wide-eyed wonder to the vastness of the universe, filtered through the story of two lost souls, Hesmondhalgh shines as she tells a classic tale of love and fate. Fans of Daniel Kitson’s theatrical works will feel instantly at home with the cosily existential wordsmithery.
Cleverly staged with a pair of shoes representing each character, the audience forms a quick attachment to a pair of old carpet slippers or a messy pile of children’s trainers. Make sure you have matching socks on, too, as Hesmondhalgh asks the front row to contribute their own shoes, representing an ex-girlfriend there, a best friend here.
Suffused with generous optimism, The Greatest Play… doesn’t actually claim to be the greatest play in the history of the world, but it does offer a delightful glimpse of one corner of this particular pale blue dot floating through the darkness of space.
The Greatest Play in the History of the World… , Traverse, 4-25 Aug (not 6, 13, 20) times vary