The Tabard Theatre
Reviewed – 17th October 2017
“what has begun as a quaint romantic drama reveals itself to be an unpredictable thriller”
Based on a true story “Tryst”, which first ran in the West End twenty years ago, is revived at the Tabard Theatre. Starring Natasha J Barnes (who notably came to prominence when she stepped into the lead role of Funny Girl last year) and Fred Perry it is a passion-fuelled Edwardian thriller.
The two characters kick off by addressing the audience, laying bare their motives. Neatly delivered by the two actors, this device does initially give the audience an easy ride by taking away the need for a certain amount of guesswork. However, just as we are thinking that there is little room for intrigue, the dynamics shift and what has begun as a quaint romantic drama reveals itself to be an unpredictable thriller.
Adelaide Pinchin, a backroom milliner, is seduced by serial fraudster George Love. At first we wonder at the ease with which this happens; her gullibility is a touch unbelievable. So it is with a sense of relief that we see a suppressed intelligence break through when Adelaide eventually sees her antagonist for what he really is. From there on she demonstrates that she can give as good as she gets.
Natasha J Barnes plays the desperation of an unempowered, lonely soul to perfection. Barnes is a formidable stage presence, yet has the gift of restraint that allows the subtle shades of her portrayal to shine through. The range of emotions, from naïve wide-eyed wonder through to bitter anger is beautifully defined. Fred Perry’s George Love has an equally sweeping journey. The pair are a great match in this cat and mouse potboiler. Yet who is the cat and who is the mouse is never fixed. Until maybe the end, but it would be unfair of me to reveal too much.
There is a fine balance of rom-com and psycho-thriller built into the ninety minutes. The comedy’s main source is George Love’s outrageous lies. An unashamedly unscrupulous misogynist he is quite out of place in today’s society, even at times provoking a groan of mock disgust from a particularly vocal audience member. Then the tables turn and the switch to melodrama is seamless under Phoebe Barran’s stylish direction, enhanced by the thrilling moods of Matt Drury’s lighting, Max Dorey’s set and Dave McSeveny’s sound design.
Barnes may be the main selling point of this production but there is no hint of stunt casting. It is clear that her accolades are deserved; yet she is still part of the whole. “Tryst” is the first in-house production since an extensive refurbishment. The Tabard has always been a gem of a venue. This compelling production maintains its consistency, style and production values. A tryst well worth making a date for.
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Photography by Alastair Hilton
is at The Tabard Theatre until 5th November