The 20 seater upstairs theatre at Riddles Court provides a suitably tight space for The Typewriter, a play based in a cramped office. There’s enough room for WWII propaganda writer Harry Thomas (Tom Browning), his chair and the desk on which sits the noisy period typewriter whose sound creates memories of a bygone age. Another chair accommodates either his assistant, Angeline Edmund (Charlie Upton) his wife Mary Thomas (Esme Jennings) or evacuee Eddie Smith. It’s fortunate that there are only a couple of occasions when more than two people need to squeeze in.
The quality of acting and production is of the usual high standard associated with LIPA
Harry fought in WWI and has good reason for not being on the front this time but this doesn’t prevent him from being vilified. His rigid disposition and stressed condition suggest a man with both OCD and PTSD, but those are just incidental. He is overworked, often spending nights in the office,much to the annoyance of his wife. There is an undercurrent that she expects him of having an affair with Angeline, but that never surfaces. The glares the two women exchange as they pass by each certainly leave us in no doubt that there is no love lost between them.
Browning portrays just how difficult it is to live and work with Harry, given his focussed attention on his job and his mind full of secrets that he has to guard. Upton brings a classic interpretation of the secretary, dutifully obeying orders and being respectful. Jennings plays the devoted wife, but also exudes the frustration Mary must feel in living with a man who is distant and for whom children are anathema.
The announcement of thousands of evacuees coming from London turns their world upside down and Eddie comes to live with them. The outcome of this cocky fourteen-year-old’s arrival is fairly predictable in changing Harry’s attitude towards children and bringing about a mellowing of his disposition. It’s here that various elements of credibility set in. Allowing for blind casting, it is still disconcerting that Browning is far too young to play Harry and Leigh to old and physically mature to play Eddie. Given the etiquette of the day it’s unlikely that Eddie would speak in such a familiar and insulting way to an older stranger in whose house he is a guest and the transformation that occurs in Harry seems to happen far too quickly.
The Typewriter has been created by a cohort of seven creatives from Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts and the quality of acting and production is of the usual high standard associated with LIPA. There is certainly material here for a fuller piece and indeed, it already forms a sequel to an earlier work, The Bunker.