The Theatreguide.London Review
Trafalgar Studio 2 Spring 2015
This new two-hander by William Ivory is an opportunity to enjoy two beautiful examples of quietly underplayed acting in the intimate setting of the Trafalgar Studio 2. But the play itself is a little too formulaic to have much that is new or original to say.
The genre is “Irascible Old Guy Encounters Young Carer”. In this case it's a World War II veteran in a care home and the nervous first-day-on-the-job aide assigned to help him.
The formula requires that they meet warily, the old guy fight against this change in his routine, they slowly begin to warm to each other and eventually bond, with each giving and taking something of value in the connection.
And so they do in Ivory's play. The opening scenes are largely comic, the old guy enjoying the process of keeping the newcomer off balance. And the later scenes become warmer as each is shown to have weaknesses or insecurities that inspire the other to try to offer some counsel or comfort.
There is a built-in entertainment value to the genre, and a heartwarming quality, that make this variant work for much of its length.
But if the strengths of Ivory's script lie largely in the formula, too many of the specifics he plugs into the outline seem forced, such as making the young guy enthusiastic about a newly-adopted religion, which he tries to foist on the veteran who is overtly atheist but has a personal faith that got him through the war.
And the final scenes present us with abrupt and barely-believable revelations about both men that are intended to inspire a re-evaluation of all that came before, but really just seem arbitrarily pasted on.
But any two-character play lives or dies on the two performers individually and the chemistry between them. And director Matt Aston has guided James Bolam and Steve John Shepherd to performances beautifully nuanced in themselves and pitched perfectly to the small theatre in which they're playing.
When you are sitting no more than six feet and as little as two away from the actors, you can notice and appreciate the way small gestures or even eye movements can speak volumes.
And in a play about the small shifts in an evolving relationship, being able to spot each tiny increment in emotion brings you deeply into the reality of the characters, however formulaic their situation may be.
It also allows you to appreciate the craftsmen at work. To be sitting face-to-face with an actor and see in his eyes that the character doesn't see you is a theatrical thrill in itself.
I doubt that the details of Bomber's Moon will stick in your mind very long, just because it is too much like Driving Miss Daisy or a dozen other examples of the genre.
But there will be moments in the performances of both James Bolam and Steve John Shepherd that you will remember warmly for a long time.
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