Review: Sticky Labels, The Lantern Theatre

   Following on from a string of performances at Buxton Fringe festival, the final night of brand new play Sticky Labels by Chester-based playwright Laura Kate Barrow takes place at the Lantern Theatre in Liverpool’s creatively thriving Baltic Triangle quarter.

   After accidentally sleeping with an underage girl who claims to be a university fresher on a night out, Dan is accused of sexual assault and is branded a paedophile by the local press. Though cleared of the charges in court, the label sticks and he is tormented daily. Several years after the incident, he finally musters the courage to date online and meets a young woman, Lucy, who is similarly new to internet dating. They slowly begin to fall for each other, but when Lucy reveals she is a single mother with a teenage daughter, he is plunged into doubt. Will the love and warmth fade from her face, if he reveals his past? Will she label him too?

   Emerging young Director, John Young, who has also recently taken on the role of Resident Director for local writers group Chester Micro Plays, manages to retain a steady sense of movement and structure in a two-man play that could easily be executed too statically. Utilising chairs moved from corner, to centre, to corner again in a tight, square floor space – a visual representation of confinement that reflects the many senses of imprisonment and inescapabilty that a false accusation can create – the pair of actors pace expressively through the interwoven monologue/dialogue performance.

   Actors Annabel Entress and John Dayton give admirable performances as the two lovers that are haunted by a single mistake and the irreversible impact it has on the rest of both their lives.

   With the recent climate of historic sex abuse allegations that have been coming to light recently, the subject matter of Sticky Labels is bold to say the least. Yet, Barrow unflinchingly forces us to address issues that, more often than not, society is too uncomfortable to talk about, with her thematic exploration of prejudice and the devastating consequences that unjustly labelling someone can bring.

   A sincerely thought-provoking piece.

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