Pros: A fun and lively production that will make you laugh out loud.
Cons: Rather predictable, with unconvincing characters.
Hello/Goodbye begins with the first meeting of Alex (Shaun Evans) and Juliet (Miranda Raison). They are moving into the same flat – accidentally. There has been a mix up with their estate agents and they both think the flat is theirs. This is an interesting starting point for a play, albeit a far-fetched one, but is unfortunately not carried off convincingly enough. Juliet immediately responds to Alex’s presence by throwing a tantrum. Fair enough. But her frustration peaks too early and she is unable to build on it for the duration of the play. No matter how offensive Alex is, she can only repeat the same old histrionics, which quickly become tiresome.
These flare-ups are peppered with periods of intense personal probing, which feel unrealistic as they are supposed to have only just met in this unusual circumstance. Both characters pass sweeping judgements on each other with very little lead up. Alex decides that Juliet’s promiscuous behaviour is as a result of her father abandoning her when she was a child. Whilst this made for a dramatic scene on stage, it didn’t feel natural, especially as a few moments later they leap into each other’s arms in a fit of passion.
Disappointingly, Alex’s judgements are pretty accurate. Juliet is a character so hollow, you could knock on her. She’s shallow, selfish, beautiful – a complete cliché, who is very much at home in this very predictable tale of opposites attracting. This tried and tested formula may appeal to some, but I would have liked a fresher take on the subject and characters that feel more real and relatable. It’s a shame; Juliet comes with so much backstory that there is real potential to make her into a fascinating character, but this is thrown away for quick laughs instead.
That said, the play was a lot of fun and I did enjoy myself taking it at face value. There were moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity and well-observed jokes. Raison and Evans gave good performances – I just wish they’d been placed in a more imaginative story, which could have offered something new to its audience.
Author: Peter Souter
Director: Tamara Harvey
Designer: Lucy Osborne
Booking Until: 28 February 2015
Box Office: 020 7722 9301
Booking Link: http://www.hampsteadtheatre.com/whats-on/2015/hellogoodbye/