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 The Theatreguide.London Review


Timeless
New End Theatre   Spring 2006

In Christopher Clarke's short play two women in their eighties meet in a Paris cafe and discover that they knew each other more than fifty years ago, when they were both Broadway chorus girls.

Reminiscing and filling in their stories since then, they expose the high and low points in both their lives, but a shocking surprise in the present threatens their newly-revived friendship. Good will and good sense get them through that crisis, only for another to challenge hopes for a happy ending.

It's a sweet little story, which has also been filmed with the same two actresses, Beryl King and Ruth Posner, and I suspect that the film, with its opportunity to open up the action and, more importantly, to give a sense of time and place, may be quietly successful.

The sparse stage version, sadly, lacks the texture and sense of reality needed to make it work. The play consists largely of description and narration of offstage events, and all we actually see onstage is two women sitting and talking.

So they and their director have to create an entire universe around them, so that we believe in the people and events they describe, and can respond to their emotions as true and moving.

And, despite the unquestioned ability and personal charm of the two actresses, they are not really able to make us believe in their characters. With the author directing (rarely a good idea unless you're Alan Ayckbourn), we are for far too much of the play merely aware of actresses reading lines.

There is no sense that these two characters ever knew each other or shared a past, a little more reality to their narrations of their lives over the past half-century, but then again too little believability about their responses to the plot twists of the present.

There is undoubted pleasure to be found in the company of the two actresses, but their playwright has given them too little to work with, and their director has given them too little guidance in filling in what has been left out. The unfortunate result is an acting exercise that far too rarely comes alive.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Timeless - New End 2006