Date Reviewed: 27th February, 2009
Venue: The Lowry
Tom Bidwell‘s Company Along The Mile has a really promising premise which delivers enough laughs and surprises to stand out from the norm. It’s a shame then that ultimately, there are too many loose ends in the script which make it less credible as a whole, as some of the scenes have real bite.
Stella and George could be described as the odd couple, in that they would argue they simply meet up, as opposed to being in a relationship. Like Coronation Street’s Roy and Hayley Cropper, this quirky pair have to overcome many obstacles in life. What links them is their eccentricities; Stella is a transsexual who loves her sandwiches cut into triangles and stoic, straight-laced George loves to read the obituaries on the lavatory.
The two meet every Wednesday in a hotel room and for that day alone, they behave like any other couple. Well, any couple who talk, argue and do not have sex. Following a phone call in their Blackpool hotel room, whereby the caller is not identified and several strange noises, George is convinced that someone is out to get them.
From here on, the plot twists and turns as George’s frustration and fear leads to drastic action and frightening consequences. So far, so good, but following the initial set up, the narrative becomes too flabby and loosely linked to become anything more than light whimsy.
Bidwell’s script is quite repetitious which makes it hard for the cast to flesh out the characters. But they do an admirable job, lifting them way beyond the usual stereotypes. Toby Sawyer‘s Stella is annoyingly shrill but completely likeable as he does imbue her with an undying respect for her friend George.
Meanwhile, Dominic Gately conveys George’s repression incredibly well and you do feel for him. The problem is that the character is too sketchily written, so you do not really find out what motivates him to continue this relationship. It seems to have no roots, beyond the fact that they were childhood friends.
John Catterall‘s Bellboy steals many of the scenes with his brilliant comic timing, although his character is purely a plot device to test the couple.
Barney George’s gaudy set perfectly captures the ‘kiss me quick’ appeal of Blackpool’s Golden Mile and director Justin Audibert uses this as a platform in which to convey claustrophobia, but the thriller element should be expanded, as it has nowhere to go, by the denouement.
Overall, Company Along The Mile leaves you with plenty to smile about, in spite of its flaws, partly due to the committed performers who lift the play when it flags.