A chance meeting in an art gallery and a new flatmate moving in provide the simple framework for Be Home Soon, a beautifully crafted and sensitively performed debut play from By The Moon theatre company, made up of students and graduates from the University of Manchester.
A beautifully crafted and sensitively performed debut play
Raf (Arran Kemp) is a struggling would-be young artist, though for the sake of a potential career in the real world he is studying mathematics. As he gazes at various paintings he encounters fellow art-lover Mel (Evie Carricker). Writer Liliana Newsam-Smith’s dialogue captures that awkward moment when two people meet for the first time and are not sure where the conversation might lead. Their exploratory exchanges are nervous and tentative, self-conscious and embarrassed. The delicacy of this writing is sustained throughout and Newsam-Smith has the ability to create situations and awkward moments that often seem very familiar and with which it’s easy to identify, because we’ve all been there.
Nowhere is this more evident than when Kaya (Natalia Leaper) arrives. Leaper’s naturally pronounced North Yorkshire accent and gushing presence stands out in splendid contrast to Kemp’s soft Dorset tones. At times he seems mystified by her presence and she knows only too well that she has the habit of opening her mouth and putting her foot in it. The contrast creates some highly amusing moments especially given Leaper’s skilled timing and range of facial expressions.
Raf also has to deal with the increasingly challenging suggestions from Mel that will turn his life upside down. Again the contrasts work well; her energy and pushiness encountering his lethargy and reserve. Kemp sustains a hushed and fascinatingly understated performance as a shy, timid and insecure individual confronted my the more ebullient Mel, until about half-way through the play. Then, following a scene in which several glasses of wine are consumed we witness a transformation in Raf’s personality and suddenly Kemp applies his latent energy in one of those magical moments of theatrical metamorphosis that can leave you wondering where he pulled that from. In terms of character and actor this is a changed man and we see a whole new side to both as his relationship with Mel and the world is reshaped.
Realtionships build as much as the ingenious set. The two women never meet but rotate in scenes with Raf. Props used in one location become something else in the next in some quite remarkable transitions that emerge from the script but are manged by designer Emily Puddephatt. The sounds of Sofia Armella's compositions enhance the changing moods.
Tragedy brings another turning point in the story and by the end we have been taken on an emotional journey from the light-hearted and amusing to the serious and devastating; to an exploration of the haunting power of memories and the need to let go in order to face the future.