One Day When We Were Young by Nick Payne

Nick Payne's bittersweet love story One Day When We Were Young charts Leonard and Violet's tangled relationship across five decades of love and longing. It is a delicate and utterly charming portrayal of two lives that can't let go of each other.

A well-written and balanced play beautifully executed, with a strong cast and intelligent direction.

Opening in the rush of World War II, among rations, gas masks and the playful spirit of the time, the young lovers delight in each other’s company in a hotel room in Bath. The humour is innocent, delicate and beautifully elegant. As they grow older and their manners mature, the nature of their relationship must change, just as the world around them does too. The structure of the piece allows us to see a lifelong development, rather than a fragment of love captured in time. We see their memories form and then recalled later by older, more hardened bodies.

Valorie Curry and Sam Underwood are excellent. Curry impressively transforms the flirtatious young girl into a dignified woman, hiding her pain behind a perfectly maintained face. Underwood carries Leonard's bitterness and hurt with toughened dignity. Both have convincing physicalities and crystal clear voices, as well as a sincere and electric chemistry, right from the spark of their first kiss. They seem as drawn to each other as we are to them and we are wholly convinced by their attraction. The scene-changes, open and fully visible, are beautifully choreographed, which further reflects the actors' synchronicity. Indeed, the scene changes are so slick to watch that we don't mind waiting through them.

The charm of the piece is further heightened by the evocative period settings: the snippets of songs, exquisitely detailed costumes and little touches of mannerisms are perfectly reflective of the changing decades the characters find themselves in.

This production by New York based company Fundamental Theater Project is a wonderful chance to see a well-written and balanced play beautifully executed, with a strong cast and intelligent direction. 

Reviews by Cara Ballingall

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The Blurb

The story of two people as their paths cross throughout the years, changing both their lives irrevocably. In a heartbreaking journey of would-be romance, this time-shifting two-hander tracks their meetings in three parts, from the hope of youth at the height of WWII, to the loneliness and hindsight of old age. With his trademark wit, Payne earnestly explores the ideas of love and fate, and ultimately the ties that truly bind us. Starring Valorie Curry and Sam Underwood from The Following, directed by Louisa Proske.