The Theatreguide.London Review
Sign Of The Times
Duchess Theatre Spring 2011
Sign Of The Times is a modest little comedy with some pretensions above its station, which it doesn't really fulfil.
Playwright Tim Firth imagines a veteran sign installer - the guy who puts big electrical letters on the sides of buildings - taking on a young work experience assistant on the very day he himself is to be fired.
I haven't given anything away there - if you haven't figured out every twist and turn of at least Act One within the first ten minutes, you're asleep.
The older man has dreams of writing spy novels and the kid has undeveloped artistic talent, but those are introduced just to hint at a pathos the play doesn't really explore.
Act Two jumps ahead three years when, through unlikely circumstances, the positions of the two are reversed.
Firth doesn't develop the irony or implicit social commentary here either, but rather fills the time with a satire of sales techniques (It's a shop, and the younger man has to train the elder in selling) and a particularly unlikely, irrelevant and clumsily staged bit of farce that has the two trapped under a fallen sign.
As that episode suggests, director Peter Wilson doesn't show any real affinity for physical comedy, or the ability to carry the play smoothly from one self-contained episode to another in an entirely different style.
Several recent stage appearances have shown that Matthew Kelly is a far better actor than this bit of fluff requires, but he has the awareness and skill to hold himself back and not overpower the fragile vessel. Gerard Kearns leaves little impression at all as the boy.
The two actors are familiar television faces, and the pleasure of seeing them in person will have to be their fans' major attraction and satisfaction.
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