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Review: The Gap (Hope Mill Theatre)

Review by Jack McCabe


Before last night, I had never been to the Hope Mill Theatre, a gorgeous little theatre in Ancoats with a real community feel. It was a pleasure to spend my first evening there watching Jim Cartwright’s newest offering, The Gap, a play about nostalgia, class, grit, and sex-work. 


The play tells the story of two old friends, Corral and Walter, who recount their lives to the audience following a reunion after years apart from one another. When younger, they left their lives up North for glittering Soho and ended up without a pot to pee in. Eventually, they landed on ways to make their money – Corral as a high-end sex worker and Walter as her front-of-house ‘maid’. However, given this play is about nostalgia, you won’t be surprised to hear the glamour didn’t last. This is a funny and heartfelt, albeit short, play telling the story of rags to riches, and to rags once more. 

Jim Cartwright never fails when it comes to dialogue, and this show is no different. The audience take on the role of the reporter to whom Walter and Corral are recounting their stories, and the intimate venue made me feel like I was sat in their living room with a cup of tea. Anthony Bank’s direction is understated, but clever. The dark colours dominate the set to reflect the night-time during which Corral makes her money, while the clothes are bright and colourful to reflect the personalities of these two characters. Famous faces flash on the screen to remind us of which era we are in, and how could we forget? 


Denise Welch and Matthew Kelly are a fantastic double act, taking on this two-hander with ease and a faultless chemistry. One of my favourite parts of the show was the start of act two, when they both performed monologues which were captivating, funny and just a little bit rude. Matthew Kelly had the audience in tears at the end, with both actors giving wonderful performances and doing Jim Cartwright’s play justice. 

Both act one and act two were relatively short, running at approximately 45 minutes each. I struggled with the first half, a large portion of which seemed to be the characters making nostalgic reference after nostalgic reference, as a way of reinforcing the fact we were in the sixties. The play didn’t need it and the story suffered because of it. This play shines when we are learning of the frivolity encountered by Walter and Corral, and not when the talented actors are simply reeling off names from times gone by. 


Act two was a tour-de-force in storytelling, humour, and heart – a fast-paced and funny lesson in ‘what goes up, must come down’. It made none of the mistakes made in act one, instead having two brilliant actors delivering a brilliant performance, of a brilliant script. Alongside Walter and Corral, Kelly and Welch played numerous other characters who featured in their story. It became easy sometimes to forget this was a two-hander.

The set and costumes were simple but effective, two sliding doors behind which the various scenes were set with the actors often coming down onto the floor allowing for a feeling of real intimacy. I particularly enjoyed the sound design by Ben and Max Righam, designed to emanate a feeling of reminiscence and nostalgia even for people who were not around when this play was set.


All in all, this was an enjoyable performance, and Matthew Kelly and Denise Welch felt like a breath of fresh air. Jim Cartwright’s script was in very safe hands with these actors. If the intention of this play was to focus on nostalgia, it succeeded, however this, at times, perhaps at to the detriment of the story itself.


The Gap plays at the Hope Mill Theatre until March 16th

For tickets and information visit

Photos by Pamela Raith


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