Hen & Chickens Theatre
Reviewed – 22nd August 2017
“a quality script, beautifully delivered and charmingly performed”
Coincidence creates connection in this sweet and gentle tale of strangers living in an anonymous city. Julia Cranney’s play tells the story of Daniel and Ava, two unlikely companions dealing with the loneliness of modern life and finding comfort in a chance encounter. The second show, from the already award-winning Pennyworth Productions, is a delicate comedy attempting to address the loneliness of modern living. A gentle laugh rather than a guffaw.
This is perfect 6’o’clock viewing – a good cup of coffee at the end of the day. Endearing from the outset, the play presents our two abandoned souls with warmth and humour, never cloying or obvious. The production plays to the venue’s strengths, keeping it simple and open, but not un-sophisticated. The action of the play is mainly told through two voice overs, which is insightful but not over bearing, and Richard Speir’s direction carefully balances the blossoming friendship. The overall effect is very slick, but most importantly frees the actors to really nuance their performances.
As a two hander, the play rests on the strength of the cast and both performers more than live up to the task. Writer Julia Cranney is all too recognisable as the isolated Ava, both desperate and terrified to reach out to others. Nervy and vulnerable, Cranney’s is equally matched by the stoic and easy going Daniel, a man dealing with the aftermath a family breakdown. In lesser hands, this character could have easily been seedy, but Simon Mattacks is brilliant in his portrayal – instantly reassuring and charismatic. The contrast between the world-weary and the naïve have you really rooting for these characters to open up to each other from the get go, and the pay off, though small, is striking.
The only slight criticism I can offer is a scene where Mattacks performs with his back to the audience. While I can see the narrative sense and it is in-keeping with the tone of the piece, it shuts Daniel out of the intimacy that Speir’s has built between the audience and the performers. Even that slight barrier, made me feel like I was missing something from the scene as a whole. That said, it gives Cranney a real chance to articulate Ava’s dilemma and Mattacks recovers more than admirably.
I really liked this show. While it may not be the flashiest or most spectacular show on the Fringe this season, what it does it does really – a quality script, beautifully delivered and charmingly performed. This is a company that clearly takes a lot of pride in their work and it certainly pays off – this is new writing at its best. A strong and safe second outing for a new company that I would highly recommend.
Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com
is at the Hen & Chickens Theatre on 26th & 27th August as part of the Camden Fringe Festival