The Life and Times of Mitchell & Kenyon

Christopher Wright as James Kenyon and Gareth Cassidy as Sagar Mitchell

Christopher Wright as James Kenyon and Gareth Cassidy as Sagar Mitchell

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The Dukes - Lancaster

In a show with only five cast members it is, perhaps, ironic that the real stars of the latest production at The Dukes are not human.

Full of humanity, yes; alive, yes, in their own way, and with stage presence by the bucket-load: but not human, because the real stars are the films.

These celluloid masterpieces – for they are, in their own way, works of art – are transfixing.

The men behind them, the Mitchell and Kenyon of the title, are two unassuming characters from Blackburn with the northern nous to work a good idea for all its worth. In this case that idea was a turning point in the world of entertainment … film.

Flickering images projected behind the performers – an energetic Gareth Cassidy as Sagar Mitchell and Christopher Wright as James Kenyon – provide a mesmerising glimpse into turn-of-the-century Lancashire.

From the final years of Victoria’s reign to the start of the First World War these films capture the lives of ordinary people – mill workers, school children and families strolling along Morecambe Prom.

How wonderful it would have been to have the real duo to hand to witness how their early films have survived for more than 80 years to be re-discovered stashed in an old milk churn in a Blackburn basement. How proud they would be.

What writer Darach Carville has done, however, is the next best thing.

By cleverly resurrecting the partners to play out their own story and to look on as it is brought up to date, he succeeds in giving us a flavour of what might have been.

With little known about the real Mitchell and Kenyon, he has had plenty of freedom to imagine.

The result is an enthusiastic and upbeat production peppered with songs.

But what endures after you leave the theatre are those wonderful films.

It runs here until May 10, then switches to co-producers Oldham Coliseum May 15-31.

Joyce Bishop