It’s a Wednesday a couple of weeks back. It’s The Kings Arms, Salford. Upstairs it’s packed, the theatre space has a whiff of something only recognised in the early hours of a morning as the cross section of folk wait for the onstage bar to open.
Tonight is the opening night for ‘The Bubbler’ by Cathy Crabb. A dialogue of dark and light between Peter (Neil Bell) - banking’s one time next big thing, now reduced to managing a Cash Generator, and Paul (Daniel Street-Brown), the humanist barman who’s realised Peter’s flagrant and ruthless potential to exact a rise from him with any combination of his mis-adventured idiosyncrasies.
The play is divided into scenes with slide references to Milton’s Paradise Lost; the clapboard reflections which plot Peter’s fall from grace within the dialogue as the two players consider an umbrella left in the pub, and then the owner.
I have no doubt that I am witness to something familiar here - though it is not the ability of the actors to deliver the pathos of the characters, yet they do this with ease; the dip and rise of the audience on the tide of sentiment, truth and untruth, intention and deceit. It is not either the venue, an inner city space with a wealth of layman’s charm, white beer and identity. It is Cathy Crabb’s creative deft ability to present a high rise of understanding within a minimal script which pivots on the essence of the characters and their interactions.
There is no need within this creative space for any elaborate word dance or skull wielding spotlight soliloquy, just two men, an umbrella and a kaleidoscope of intent which sifts through the empathy of the audience, and thus serves an opportunity to reflect.
I realise what I am witness to now, it’s an artist communicating with the luminary deftness of being; a stand alone playwright with the ability to transcend or skirmish through any political trend, so echoing the rich lineage of writers from this part of the world, of which, Cathy Crabb is easily becoming the latest.