Edinburgh Fringe 2019
Partial homage to The Dumb Waiter, Hitman And Her is funny and engaging.
Hitman And Her is highly recommended : an engaging and funny tale of a jilted wife trying to arrange a hit on her husband, weaving undertones of homage to Harold Pinter, Samuel Beckett and The Italian Job.
What happens if you stray from your comfort zone ? A woman arrives in a pub and invites herself to join a man, to whom she is apparently unknown. Their clothing and demeanour would suggest that they have very little in common. But, very much in keeping with a theme of this production, all is not as it seems. She, it transpires, is a wife, jilted after eight years of marriage. She has an arranged meeting with the man – a professional killer – to arrange the murder of her estranged husband.
While clandestine activity and fear of discovery may well go with the territory for him, the woman shows no obvious signs of intimidation of either the situation or the man, disrupting his need to follow procedures. Unwittingly ? She is undaunted – is this because she is fixated on righting the marital wrong, or should the hitman begin to suspect there to be subterfuge afoot ? Another theme of this show is names, or in many cases the lack of them. The woman’s husband had an affair with, of all people, a Blue Peter presenter, but she will not disclose which one, to the man’s increasing frustration. The man, despite resembling a Tommy Robinson supporter, displays cinematic knowledge, being an admirer of Noel Coward and Michael Caine and delivering a critique of The Italian Job. More ambiguity. The homage to fans of The Italian Job will become clear.
The couple never settle into an easy conversation, but despite this the actors successfully establish the relationship. As the scene develops, it becomes apparent that the husband’s name is known to the hitman and he is uncomfortable about performing the act, for fear of slighting a gangland boss. Here we start to see parallels with Waiting For Godot and especially The Dumb Waiter, in which the hitmen are weighed down by social norms and class awareness, with the presence of the unseen Wilson looming over the proceedings.
Tim Connery’s writing is sharp, enabling silence-filled pauses to build tension and dramaturgically turning the tables. Director Doug Kirby has adeptly fine-tuned the work and given the actors (Alex Dee and Lou Kendon-Ross) space to play and explore. Alex Dee is superbly menacing and world-weary, without falling into caricature. Lou Kendon-Ross’ performance is delightful : playful, but multi-layered and enables the shift in dynamic within the play to be utterly believable. But it is within the actors’ relationship and dynamic that you see the ensemble’s skill ; it would have been very easy to mirror each other’s energy, but the relationship ebbs and flows seamlessly. The comfort zone boundaries have become murky now.
Overall, Stage D’Or’s production of Hitman And Her is an expert fusion of writing, directing and performance, which provides highly enjoyable theatre.