Molly is shit with words and her tits are too small. In many ways a shy and withdrawn teenager, in so many others full of bravado and confidence that she has developed by necessity to live in the poorer end of Salford. Talking to others, she never knows what to say, but her inner monologue rages through the entire production like a Glitter Punch, inciteful and observant and full of emotion that she can’t physically express. Even when she meets John and her life is turned upside down she can rarely express herself to him.
They meet in the smoking area at college and Molly (Charlotte Salkind) is immediately captivated by John (Hadley Smith), but he’s not typically attractive and he doesn’t seem to have an overly effervescent personality. It’s the intrigue, something she can’t put her finger on. John and smoking, her two unhealthy obsessions in a life that is otherwise grey, uneventful and otherwise entirely mundane. Mum goes through boyfriends like water; dad ran off; little brother cries too much; slanging matches are a regular occurrence. She’s never seen the sea or the beach, never had sex (at 16 in Salford this is the equivalent to being a leper). To most people, Molly is an oversight, and afterthought. But John makes it all seem brighter – Jamie Ferguson’s ingenious lighting giving them colour against a bleak backdrop. Pink for her, green for him and a combination of warm orange to envelop them together in a glow that is safe and protective. They drink each other in, savouring the moments of silence, exhaling simultaneously each time Peter Taylor’s scenes cut to black for the next installment.
Love is a Glitter Punch. A car crash is a Glitter Punch too. Lucy Burke’s play describes an alternative love story, one without sunshine and rainbows but where Molly is treated to the little things that warm her heart – her boyfriend’s hoodie, watching a sunrise over a Welsh beach in the freezing cold. John is not 16, so from the start it is obvious that something is unconventional in their circumstances. Smith effectively conveys the awkwardness of his character, an inner guilt that there is a dark secret lurking in the background of their relationship, never revealed until right at the end. But Salkind is the star of the show, possessing intelligence in her background that her character is totally unaware of, lighting fast observations and a northern steel that masks a cavern she is unknowingly desperate to fill. Her diary monologues are delivered directly to the audience, a punch through the fourth wall with a glint in her eye that draws you in and pins you to the chair all at once.
For the most part, Lucy Burke’s Glitter Punch is insightful, fresh and a clever take on an atypical love story. The final reveal in many ways isn’t needed, almost as if the veil is lifted on something that is more impactful when it is kept under cloak and dagger. After all, that is ultimately how Molly and John conducted their relationship for fear of the repercussions from the rest of society.