As a born and raised Peterborian, Joel Horwood’s choice of title sold this to me from the off. I snapped up a ticket keeping one set of fingers crossed for dramatic genius and another partly hoping for a fabulous car crash, a) because I was at the fringe and b) what can one expect of a city that for a fair year or two was devoid of a functioning theatre?
The answer? An intense two-handed tale of strained paternal relationships, frustrated sexuality and floundering hopes and aspirations as two individuals sink into the monotony of the ‘nation’s beating heart of train travel’.
The dusty 70s decor, and moth-eaten suited/gaudy sequinned protagonists contribute to a ‘Titanicky’ feeling that the last lifeboat pulled out of these two lives long before you entered the theatre. Horwood’s stars are Michael/Lulu (Milo Twomey), a transvestite so accustomed to physical conflict that she chuckles through smeared makeup as she regales further bloodshed; and Hew (Jay Taylor), Lulu’s formally estranged and clearly emotionally damaged son who earnestly battles through adolescence and ever-thwarted dreams of a musical career.
Horwood shapes his characters and his landscape with accurate bleakness and sensitivity. Indeed, Hew’s account of stumbling around outside the Met Lounge dazed and confused in the early hours of the morning harked back to occasions when my own teenage self sat in the same spot and sobbed my heart out on the pavement over one heartbreak or another.
Whilst ‘I Heart Peterborough’ is far from the documentary, (much as every set of twins in Liverpool isn’t the victim of a fraternal shooting with a singing Nolan sister for a mother) what Horwood does in I Heart Peterborough is represent a long artistically-neglected region, a move which, ideally, will spark a deluge of writing from these under-represented regions nationwide. Here’s hoping…
For those less emotionally and/or politically invested in the plight of nondescript midland towns however, Hew’s poignantly gut wrenching rendition of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up that Hill’ will continue to haunt you long after you stroll out the Soho Theatre, where Horwood’s gem will be from the 9th of October. 5/5