Two desperately lonely people open up to each other at the end of a house warming party and eventually become a couple. This is a modern tale about a depth of loneliness that eats away at the protagonists, making them unable to function normally within a relationship. Their dance of seduction as the play progresses leads the way to an understanding and a sense of hope wherein a relationship between them might possibly succeed.
The truthful points resonate and as the characters reveal to each other the extent of their painful past we come to care very much about them and their future
This well-crafted, witty script is enacted in real time with both characters telling their stories with stark truthfulness, beginning tentatively and with many humorous blunders until they reach an enviable connection. The play highlights the potential of human relationships that are face-to-face in a time of social media and online dating. It requires a high-risk strategy, which the hostess Laura (Justine Mitchell) is prepared to take. Danny (Sam Troughton) does not immediately accept her offer of a one-night stand; he is not the stereotypical Essex boy that he likes to project, but a man who has suffered deeply in his personal life and his responses to Laura – a highly successful professional – are tentative and funny in equal measure.
Danny exhibits his unease with a wonderfully twitchy set of movements and actions. He can’t open a bottle of wine without breaking the cork and he prefers to clear up the mess left from the party rather than sit close on a sofa with a woman he obviously finds attractive. On the other hand Laura, though drunk, exhibits a poise and determined confidence but, as the night progresses, her physicality gradually shifts towards a vulnerability that moves Danny into recognising their mutual pain. Laura’s monologue about their possible lovemaking is tremendously moving, highlighting how part of her loneliness is a physical yearning for sex as well as an emotional need for a child. Danny is already an estranged father and fears history repeating itself.
There are many funny moments and associations reminding us of contemporary issues. Danny is now so broke after his divorce he lives with his mum. Laura is well paid enough to have a huge mortgage on her Crouch End flat. At the height of their fumbling flirtations they resort to dancing, as Danny “loved her playlist.” References to North London abound, with Laura a Corbyn fan and Danny describing himself as a Tory boy.
Polly Findlay’s direction is perfectly paced and balanced, the awkward moments jar while the optimistic moments give a sense of relief. The truthful points resonate and as the characters reveal to each other the extent of their painful past we come to care very much about them and their future – whether it is together or apart. The set design perfectly complements the action. The flat is comfortable and the décor supports the idea of a single professional woman who hasn’t taken too many risks in the past.
How to connect with others and sustain relationships in the modern era is at the heart of this play. The distractions of social media may make it even more difficult than it is already.