Great reckonings in small rooms is what the Bush excel at and One Minute, in its unsensational and imperfect way, is precisely that.
The subject may be an all-too-familiar one – a detective story based around a young child who has gone missing. But author Simon Stephens with Actors Touring Company's director, Gordon Anderson have found fresh mileage on the periphery, in the repercussions of those involved: the two policemen, the mother, a barmaid, a witness, and last but by no means least, the city in which these events take place - London itself. The result is one of the most heart-warming plays apt to come your way this, or any year, for that matter.
Stephens' past plays (Bluebird, Herons and the darkly comic Christmas which comprised the first half of this mini-Stephens season at the Bush in January) have all been marked by wry humour and an ability to find beauty in the unlikeliest of urban situations. Here, his heightened sense of London as a character in its own right will, I swear, make you see it with completely different eyes.
To give London a new kind of exotica is no mean feat. To do it simply, through intimate observation, characterisation and a hand-picked cast, is to make theatre at its most seductive.
In fact, One Minute came out of a 12-month workshop process and it shows. Such attention to detail has its pay-off, and the dividend here - despite its telly-influenced style of short, episodic scenes - is a build-up of remarkable tension.
To see a copper being turned down by a bar-maid wouldn't, you'd think, make the greatest dramatic moment in history. But just watch how, by the time we get to Simon Wolfe's superb, gruff, sexy Northern Irish DI Gary Burroughs trying in a roundabout way to ask Sarah Paul's paying-her-way-through-college Catherine, to come to an art gallery with him, we're hooked on these people, their relationships to each other and the city they – and we – inhabit.
Tom Ellis' DC Robert Evans, Gary's young, greenhorn sidekick, Theresa Banham's learning-to-live-again mother, Anne, and Lucy Black's flaky witness, Marie-Louise, complete a cast who, with Julian Swales' moody score take a grip on your imagination that just won't let it go. Indelible.
- Carole Woddis