9 June 2017
It’s another brief encounter in the Trafalgar Studios, following 46 Beacon at this venue earlier this year. But this is not a play about a casual pick up, but an original look at the aftermath of war and the effects of grief and loneliness. It’s 1929 and a man and a woman meet, she is a war widow, her husband killed during the First World War, desperate to have a baby, he willing to provide the act, all under the parameters set out by the social experiment of fighting Thanatos, the God of destruction. A simple arrangement, except, of course, it’s more complicated than that.
Within Richard Bean’s broad output of work, there are the farces such as One Man Two Guvnor’s, and tender, wonderful duets like this one. Not allowed to kiss on the lips during the arrangement, outside of the set parameters the couple meet and fall in love. The acting is sublime. Stephanie is modern; she drives a lorry, smokes, and is absolutely not a victim of her time, her widowhood making her despair for a baby. Claire Lams is excellent, making the audience fall in love with Stephanie from the outset, funny, nervous at what she is about to do, yet heartbreakingly fragile. Ben Lloyd-Hughes is equally excellent as Dennis, buttoned up, seemingly a perfect English gentleman, yet believing totally that, as he was unable to fight in the war, his war is to be Eros and provide children to sad, damaged widows and couples. (The irony is, of course, that he is providing cannon fodder for the Second World War). Both actors, with director Anna Ledwich, perfectly capture the nuances and subtle tones of the piece, from nervous first arrangement to a moving conclusion, the atmosphere wonderfully created.
It’s a perfect play for the intimacy of Studio 2 at the Trafalgars, although the set does push up hard against the front row of the audience! Bean always creates strong, interesting characters, and this small, yet powerful play, is well worth catching.