Edinburgh Fringe 2016
A subtle and tender short play about a two broken people awkwardly trying to negotiate their way around an unexpected new relationship. Well thought out, funny and moving, with some very fine acting from Tom Hurley, but just not in the right venue.
Late at night a man and a woman go back to his flat. Neither knows quite why they’re there. She wants something to happen between them. He’s not so sure. She pushes and pushes him, all the while going on about being Norwegian and how things are done in Norway. He resists and backs off, but eventually has to push back.
The script of this one-act play by David Greig is a subtle, tender and funny with a nice element of the unexpected, while the simplicity of the set – just a sofa, a few packing boxes, a dimmer light and a cassette player – sets exactly the right minimalist tone to convey the impression of a single man’s flat without distracting with extraneous detail from the absolute centrality of the two characters, their words and body language.
Tom Hurley’s performance as Sean is spot on. His body language, pacing, nervous mannerisms and stuttery small talk convincingly convey the combination of shame, nervousness, warmth and likeability of the awkward but well intentioned Sean. Were this a solo performance by Hurley alone, I would recommend it very highly indeed.
Sarah Bennington is less successful as Lisa. It is challenging to make her convincing as a character while also make something about her a little jarring and doubtful and Bennington doesn’t quite hit the right note. Her lines and pauses sound too scripted and she doesn’t manage to give Lisa much emotional depth, making her seem shallow, posh and overconfident rather than odd and slightly vulnerable. She also transforms very fast from weeping and broken back to completely normal.
In this production Lisa comes across more as a foil to Hurley’s Sean than a fully developed character in her own right. Bennington needs to work some more on giving Lisa a more complex range of emotions and building up a sense of who she is as a person and of her attraction to Sean.
One other slight but noticeable flaw was that there was an unseen window that the characters were able to look though while sitting on the sofa. However, while discussing a photo that is supposed to be on the windowsill Bennington looks up in the air at a place where the windowsill couldn’t possibly be and Hurley responds by looking somewhere else. It was just a missing bit of continuity.
This is a good production of an excellent play and in any other venue it would absolutely be a recommended show. However, there were serious issues with the location. A last minute addition to the Fringe programme, it was scheduled for quarter to midnight in a theatre with no soundproofing.
As well as a number of people being allowed to wander in after it had started, disturbing the first five minutes, there was loud raunchy cabaret going on next door throughout the production. While it did not drown out the dialogue, it is difficult to feel fully immersed in the subtly tense emotional interaction when accompanied by an unplanned background soundtrack of Britney’s Baby One More Time and similar. It really deserved to be somewhere else.