The set of Please Wait Patiently, a London Underground lost property office littered with the detritus of years, resembles both a treasure trove and a graveyard. The joy here is in laughing along while the young staff work out which one it will be for them.
The premise, finding letters which capture relationships of the past, is not a new one, but is handled with wit, humour and a very 2012 charm. Lost property workers Sam (Tom Turner), and Steph (Rachel Chambers), in their twenties and as different as can be, cannot resist reading the letters detailing the 1960s love between Joel (Max Wilson) and Alice (Chloe Nicolson). As the scenes play out before them in warm, amber lighting, they are moved, and prompted to re-evaluate their own lives.
A strong feminist dynamic crackles throughout the piece and it is the female characters who really zing. Alice sets aside her childlike qualities to march at Aldermaston and campaign for the contraceptive pill, while Steph is waiting to be caught by the "girl police" for putting love over her career. Max Wilson is heartbreaking as a grown man destroyed by the loss of his father, and this sudden weakness enables writer Natasha Collie and actor/director Matt Harrison to explore the changes in his relationship with Alice as the balance of power shifts between them, with some interesting conclusions.
The topicality of the piece comes from the humour, poking fun at the darkly comic compromises of lives half lived. The script is littered with one-liners for the Twitter generation, and there are some extremely witty and very fluid physical theatre pieces in which the lost objects represent, at different times, the characters' boredom, constriction and dreams.
There is a wonderful energy from this young ensemble, and the creativity of their approach to the piece has generated a vibrant, engaging, often hilarious tragicomedy that, in the intimate space of the Tabard, has a voyeuristic realism. According to the script, serendipity, the happy accident of finding something you weren't searching for, is the UK's favourite word. This is a company with their finger on the zeitgeist: discovering them should not be left to chance.
- by Mel West