(Seen at the afternoon performance on 28th October 2017).
The chances of a 75 year old London Butcher and 42 year old American school
secretary meeting on a random bench in a London station are remote. Her tracking
him to his shop, and a relationship building are even more random. Yet from it
Stephens fashions a fairly compelling 90 minutes.
Director Marianne Elliott and movement director Steven Hoggett develop a
frenetic style for the actors, matching a deceptively simple (and improbable)
gliding set of flats and blocks from Bunny Christie, synchronised with Nils
Frahm's carefully chosen pin-sharp music (Ian Dickinson on sound, again) and
Paule Constable's many shaded colour wash lighting.
It is of course the pairing of Kenneth Cranham (Alex Priest) and Anne-Marie
Duff (Georgie Burns) that truly carry the production. He is corpulent, British
to the core, the local butcher personified. She is battered by life yet fizzing,
an easy liar covering vulnerability and a gorgeously sculpted face with eyes
convincing in their sincerity...
The first hour has writing following an expected pattern of two people
defining their terms. By the time Stephens introduces the drama, the set-up is
strong enough that it is credible. If the resolution is perhaps not quite so
satisfying, it may be because there are so few options without the label "trite"
Somehow, the whole exercise succeeds in its aim of exploring randomness by
bringing such unlikely people together. Perhaps her character isn't so deeply
explored as it might be, the reasons for her actions and connection could be
deeper than mutual loneliness. On the other hand, random is the antithesis of
predictable, so further exploration could have allowed us to see too broad a
Had this played the smallest venue at the National Theatre, there's not doubt
in the monkey mind that it would have been the hottest ticket of the year. As it
is, the production team bring this beautifully produced, slight, intellectual
piece straight into the heart of the West End. For this alone, they are to be
commended. Add two pleasing performances, and this is a play worth seeing.