Visiting Time opens dramatically in a hospital room. A lone man with a gun attempts suicide, clearly having issues to deal with. A visitor arrives and we are drawn into the intimacy of their friendship. Old pals who have worked together in Africa where they lead a slightly wanton life. Pierce has cuckolded Tom with his wife and all three of them have HIV. Who gave it to whom? A power struggle for top dog permeates the show with visits from the nurse turning the tide of each battle. Friends turned to foes and resolved again at the end.
The piece is certainly well written, with some powerful scenes and a lot of humour. Tony Earnshaw clearly has talent at writing intimate duologues. The atmosphere is strained and tense between the two men with a constant shift in the politic of their friendship over guilt and role status. The men put each other to the test and to the limit of their friendship. Both are consumed with their mistakes and Earnshaw cleverly makes his case not giving into pity or bathos. The plot twists and turns and is certainly thought provoking.
Unfit Productions’ version seemed slightly under-rehearsed and under-played. The actors were capable but it seemed a bit on one level. First night nerves may have been a factor, but where life’s highest stakes are being played out - namely life and death - it could have been more charged with intensity with a bit more pace. The nurse, whilst being very accommodating, appeared more a happy host than an overworked underpaid front line hospital worker. Not disrespecting the work of the actor, but it may be that the role should be played by a black actress lending weight to the history of Pierce and Tom. Unlike Matron’s perfect bed sheet corners, there are a few wrinkles that need smoothing over to make this performance really stand out.
Director Darren Cheek has given a perfectly respectable show that does credit to the work and the actors give a decent enough performance. The writing stands out as a great piece of new work and is worth watching for that alone.