Pros: Accessible for people of all tastes. A good length for those who don’t like sitting in a theatre for hours.
Cons: There is one point where the plot goes down an uncomfortable route…
From the word go, playwright Sarah Daniels plays with our expectations. Between Us begins with therapist Julia breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly. The fact that she’s making references to Dalston, where the theatre is based, and other local details provides much amusement. However we soon realize that this is not a soliloquy but rather a stand-up comedy routine! The irony of a therapist finding catharsis through the confessional nature of stand-up is just one of the clever things that Daniels incorporates into this compact tale.
For the rest of play, Dave and Teresa take it in turns speaking to the audience. Again, Daniels circumvents our expectations and surprises us. When Dave addresses the audience, we realise that we are in fact taking the place of a therapist and this is the first of many counselling sessions he has. Likewise, Teresa too is undergoing counselling sessions, but for very different reasons.
On the surface Dave, played by Callum Dixon, appears to be a regular tradesman who has his own business, wife and baby girl. The way he begins talking about being a parent for the first time reminded me of some of the excerpts of Mick Gordon’s On Love. However, as Dave opens up, we find that there is more to him than meets the eye. He discloses that as a teenager he attended a private school and that his actions to ingratiate himself with his former school friends led to grave consequences for a former neighbour. In contrast, Teresa’s sessions at first seem to stem from not coping with the two young children she’s adopted. However, revelations about the children’s background show that some learned behaviour is near impossible to eradicate.
Therapist Julia’s own life is anything but straightforward either, as she has made contact with her daughter Kath: who she gave away to be adopted decades ago and grew up in a different part of the country. To try and make sense of both her private and professional life, Julia goes to comedy clubs, and so we come full circle.
The way that Daniels has interwoven the back-stories of all the characters is very skilful – not in a knowingly, ‘aren’t I clever’ way, but illuminating the interconnectivity of everything. There was a revelation by one of the characters where I felt down-right uncomfortable, but I can see the validity in its inclusion – to show that even ‘good’ people are capable of extremely poor choices.
All the actors did a fine job in their respective roles. In the role of Julia, Charlotte Cornwall’s wry delivery during her stand-up segments had me in stitches, and her palpable fear that her adult daughter will reject her now was also handled well. Georgina Rich, played both an affluent RP-speaking Teresa, and a young woman from the former coal mining communities Kath, with equal conviction and veracity. When Julia treats Kath to an upmarket restaurant, we can see the visible discomfort in her face – an event that mirrors the attempted gentrification of workers in one of Daniels’ other plays, The Gut Girls.
Between Us has a lot going for it; great writing, stirring performances and a show that will appeal to long-term theatregoers, as well as the casual visitor. It’s also just over an hour long, so even the shortest of attention spans won’t find it taxing.
Author: Sarah Daniels
Director: John Burgess
Producer: Arcola Theatre
Booking Until: 21 June 2014
Box Office: 020 7503 1646
Booking Link: www.arcolatheatre.com