Chelmsford Theatre Workshop at the Old Court
Peter Souter's play – somewhere between romcom and 21st century comedy of manners – centres on a couple thrown together by destiny and an estate agent.
They have little in common; they sometimes don't seem to speak the same language.
The script is challenging; not quite naturalistic, often very funny. This production – the first non-professional staging of this piece – by Mike and Sara Nower manages to bring out the honesty as well as the humour, and the ending is genuinely moving [and refreshingly happy, too].
Despite the vital contributions of Paul Bonnici as a bemused boyfriend and Rebecca Segeth as a smart auctioneer, this is really a two-hander.
And the two actors carry their characters wonderfully well.
Vikki Pead is the “shouty woman with slightly disastrous hair”, “vile”, “prickly” who turns out to be desperate to raise a family. A lovely, thoughtful performance, using a turn of the shoulder, a look askance to convey much that is unspoken.
Ian Willingham is the nerdy Rain Man completist, collector of “crap in frames” who offers her a bed in the box room and, ten years later, an island idyll. A totally convincing portrayal of a complex character, tender, introverted, funny and vulnerable.
Both actors timed their laugh lines brilliantly, though words were occasionally lost.
If Souter's charming, intriguing play has a weakness, it's that the symbolism and the subtext, and much else, is too heavily underlined. Alex's “Cheating is wrong...” says autistic spectrum. We can see that the intertwined candlesticks are a symbol, like the tandem. And the eggbound chicken.
This stage version was originally a radio play called That's Mine, This is Yours. And in Act Two divorce entails a division of “shared stuff”, unveiled as if for a poignant version of Kim's Game: the bedstead, the bowl of pebbles, the Damien Hurst …
The setting, and the props, are meticulously done. And there's a free roll of love hearts with every programme.
A fine production of an enjoyable new play.