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The Dreadful Hours (Tour – Liverpool)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
It’s the oldest story we know – or the most obvious; all together now: boy meets girl, boy loses girl… but what happens once boy gets girl?

The clue is in the title, perhaps too obviously, but fortunately it is not a self-fulfilling prophecy since Chris Fittock and Tmesis Theatre has come up with an inventive exploration of one couple’s relationship, craftily aided and abetted by director Javier Marzan from theatre company Peepolykus.

And talk about ups and downs. Given that the stage is set only with a table, set for dinner, it is quite amazing what can be done with that single piece of furniture, particularly since throughout, whatever they are doing or wherever they are, it is, quite clearly, a dinner table. So other than the two chairs and a kind of large scale mosaic of mirrors on the backdrop, it is all down to Elinor Randle and Yorgos Karamalegos, and they fare brilliantly. And make a meal of it, whether dancing, shouting, eating, making love or fighting. Everything is carried out with skill and passion, interspersed with silent pauses to do Harold Pinter proud. Right from the start, you’re thrown into the deep end as the scene switches rapidly back and forth between the two of them getting ready to go out.

One could be picky; it is very noisy at times, and almost as if human failings have been evenly doled out: she nags; he is stubborn; she drinks; he is obsessive. You also wonder which came first, his character or the fact that he is not English, since that may have a bearing on the dialogue; at one point, his speech is constantly corrected yet clichés must be one of the first things you get the hang of, through sheer repetition. However, the play is well structured, flashbacks being cleverly interposed with the depiction of an anniversary meal, and the humour, particularly the timing and control in the clowning and the acrobatics, is marvellous.

They say good things come in small parcels and this hour long production is lovingly presented; the audience lapped it up. So does it all end in tears or happily ever after?

Only one way to find out.

-Carole Baldock


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