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Shooting Clouds at the Union Theatre

Frank Bramwell's play Shooting Clouds is a sharply observed social drama with a very topical overtone.

Set in America, the play highlights the economic recession of 1958 and the personal effects this has on the Pearson family's small business and dreams for the future. Tensions mount when eldest son Will (Damian Sommerlad) decides to challenge the unsympathetic capitalist establishment he so resents, leading to irreversible consequences for each family member.

Bramwell's narrative is both poignant and humorous and is reinforced by Arnaud Mugglestone's neat direction. Edward Lidster's thoughtful stage design should be commended for making great use of the Union Theatre's flexible space. While the set for the most part is a realistic one, his decision to suspend an arresting array of empty picture frames gives the whole piece an extra symbolic dimension as the narrative unfolds.

All six members of the cast offer some strong performances. In particular, Thomas Coombes brings just the right amount of deviousness and wit to his role as the jealous younger brother, Gilbert, while Mariam Bell is compelling in her role as the gentle Ann. Bret Jones also gives a fine performance as the money-grabbing bank manager Donald, a pivotal character in the drama.

It must be said that the piece may have greater impact on screen rather than on stage as the play contains an innate filmic quality and there might also be a little room for some editing. However, Shooting Clouds is an accomplished and engaging play made all the more so considering the current economic climate we are experiencing, and its unpredictable outcomes.

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