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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Two one-handers, two incredibly talented women, two disparate stories: Encounters makes for a delicious evening of storytelling. A 24-year old stripper and a Parisian woman from the Second World War couldn’t be further apart in subject, but their stories are equally well contrived and etched on the bare stage by these masterful narrators.

You can practically taste the Dry Ice filtering into the grungy exotic dancers club as Sabrina Mahfouz - with help from her celebrity director David Schwimmer - conjures the girls, the punters, the conversations with the boyfriend. And it’s immaculate; slipping through perfectly paced verse to the expertly rendered accents of the people that wash through the life of her protagonist, Dry Ice with its dry wit will leave you just that little bit enraptured. Perhaps it’s the down-to-earth northern quality of her voice that keeps it just this side of tasteful, but Mahfouz’s script never falls into grisly detail. Less shocking exposé, more intimately coloured account. It’s – as Nina would probably tell you – in the tease, after all.

By contrast You’re Not Like The Other Girls, Chrissy is gentler in topic: a sweeter tale of a wartime Parisian woman and her English fiancé. From her skittish, mole-like movements to her adorable suitcase props, Christiane is utterly charmant. The audience fall as in love with her as she is with Cyril, eagerly follow her through the pre-war English tennis clubs to occupied France, so perfectly in character is Caroline Horton. Every wobble of her petit head is finely honed. Each little world inside her luggage, a treat.

Together they prove impeccable word play and characterisation are all that is needed to pull an audience into the heart of the story. No shock tactics, no flesh flashing. Just excellent oratory, a chair, a stack of suitcases... and two talented women.

- Laura Tosney


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