Tristan Bates Theatre January-February 2016
Tom Ward-Thomas's play, seen briefly at the Tristan Bates last year and in workshop stagings earlier, is a guilty pleasure of a comedy, inviting us to laugh shamelessly at the embarrassment and social awkwardness of characters trapped in socially awkward situations.
You might be a bit embarrassed yourself at the cruelty you display in laughing, but you'll get over it. It's too funny to resist.
In what starts out looking like a typical rom-com a boy and girl meet cute on a long train journey. Small talk glides into mild flirting, but then both characters begin to find themselves incapable of avoiding saying exactly the wrong thing.
He makes an innocent joke only to discover that it has painful relevance to her, or she makes a disparaging comment about 'the sort of people who. . .' when he turns out to be one of them.
As innocent faux pas begin to give way to annoyed deliberate nastiness and we pick up on the pattern, we come to anticipate each new line of dialogue, sensing that it will be a bombshell of some sort.
And so there is a triple joke in each exchange – the anticipation, the line itself, and the stunned reaction of both characters to hearing what has just been said.
Meanwhile, in another carriage of the train an older man is off on a dirty weekend with his girlfriend, only to be interrupted by his wife, who is innocently but unexpectedly making the same journey.
So the playwright gets to explore a new set of faux pas, lines with unanticipated double meanings, and general awkwardness all around, especially when the wife figures out what's going on and the women don't exactly bond but do find themselves temporarily allied against the common enemy.
I'm not giving anything away when I say the two groups will have some cross-connections leading to whole new opportunities for the wrong things to be said to the wrong people at the wrong moment.
A lot of the fun in performance is in the reactions – stunned, embarrassed, confused, vindictive or just lost – of both speakers and hearers once each ill-advised comment is made.
Ably directed by Amy Ewbank, Tom Ward-Thomas (boy), Amy Newton (girl), Martin Ball (man), Louise Bangay (wife) and Emma Kelly (girlfriend) give sparkling comic performances, Ball particularly enjoyable as the would-be philanderer reeling as he realizes that he has completely lost control of the situation.
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Review - One Of Those - Tristan Bates Theatre 2016