This is the second time that Belgian site-specific specialist Studio ORKA has been invited to contribute to the Manchester International Festival. If the success of this warm, witty rumination on love, loss and missed opportunities is anything to go by, it could well become a long-standing arrangement.
The story of a man named Tuesday who has lived his whole life in the church where he was abandoned as a baby on the eve of VE Day fits its locale – the 150-year-old Saint Augustine’s Church in Pendlebury – like a well-worn glove. The company has a strong, quirkily original visual ethos. Several set pieces, such as the perilous journey Tuesday – played with precise comic timing and acrobatic élan by Titus De Voogdt – takes up Philippe Van de Velde’s precariously ramshackle-looking set to get to his bedroom high in the rafters, provoke genuine gasps of awe.
But the visuals never overwhelm the emotions. And as the decades pass, touchingly effective comic vignettes show Tuesday becoming more and more entwined with the lives of his adopted family, a ragtag group of church workers and their children, led by brusque gravedigger Nestor – played with avuncular Oliver Hardy-like charm by Dominique Van Malder – who, thanks to a clockwork pacemaker, has given the key to his heart both literally and figuratively to Janne Desmet’s amusingly scatty Hilda.
The climax, featuring an otherwise well-deployed 25-strong community choir, feels a bit too ragged, even for a show with such a loosely improvised feel, but, for the most part, this a joyously inclusive blast of physical theatre.