One of the joys of the Northern Exposure season at the Playhouse is the opportunity to see your local haunts used as backdrops and talking points in a cracking drama.
Magpie Park by ex-Leeds University student Oliver Emanuel, has captivating dialogue peppered with allusions to Whitelocks, Morley, Hyde Park and the LGI and is atmospherically set in a room at the Queens Hotel á la Sarah Kane’s 'Blasted'.
There's even a local accent on show from one half of the cast, Polly. This contrasts in true magpie black-and-white with cockney, Harvey Nichols store detective, Douglas, played wonderfully by Liam McKenna. – reminiscent of Michael Caine's Alfie with his lively 'direct to audience' patter.
The play itself is a poignant mix of romantic contemplation and film noir mystery. Broken plates under the bed, a knife in the arm and a child's dummy in the mouth are scant clues to a mysterious week in the life of kleptomaniac Laura, Polly's sister and Douglas' girlfriend.
Although there are only two characters on stage, the focus is on Laura and the two characters relationship with her. In one of many memorable scenes they repeatedly ask 'have you seen this woman?'. This obsession to find out about her and the unknown builds to a mesmerising almost musical chant. It's a real tour-de-force of dramatic storytelling from a writer hitting the peak of his craft.
My only complaint would be the lack of chemistry between Polly and Douglas which forces the romance somewhat. But this doesn't distract from the profound vision offered. Emanuel confidently weaves magpie-like stolen observations on themes as broad as love, time, family and identity, and after plenty of twists and turns the ending doesn't disappoint. With Magpie Park, Northern Exposure has another hit on its hands and Leeds can bask in its captivating noirish light.
'Magpie Park' is on at West Yorkshire Playhouse until Friday 8 June 2007.