Pros: Superb performances by a uniformly strong cast. With a witty and incisive script, and tight direction
Cons: Cramped seating
The train journey from London to Penzance is long, especially if you’ve forgotten your book. 24-year-old Laura (Amy Newton) divides her time between filling in a crossword puzzle and trying to engage the attention of the young man sitting opposite, James (Tom Ward-Thomas – who also wrote the play). ‘How do you spell bureaucracy?’ she asks. He doesn’t know. She notices he’s reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. ‘Perhaps you could look and see if it’s in there?’ she suggests.
The couple spend the rest of the journey deep in conversation. However, their exchange is no idle chat; right from the start Tom is direct, gauche and outspoken. He probes Laura’s relationship with an older man and offers his opinion on its sustainability. Before long, she too, hits back at Tom with a series of sharp observations about his private life. They both speak their minds without considering the consequences of their words. They form an uneasy entanglement in which they alternately analyse each other’s lives, insult each other, and apologise.
The exchange is conducted with wit and charm. There are plenty of laughs as the two verbally dance around each other, and it’s punctuated only by regular reports from the buffet car on the remaining stocks of panini. And so they pass the time on the long journey: ‘time flies when you’re being judged,” as James observes.
Scene two opens with middle-aged lawyer Philip (Martin Ball) engaged in a passionate embrace with the much younger Davina (Emma Kelly). It’s clear from the buffet car announcements that this is taking place in a different carriage on the same train. All is well on their first weekend away together…until the arrival of Philip’s wife Alice (Louise Bangay).
One of Those is a witty and poignant dissection of five relationships. It examines the problem of age gaps (‘What do you mean, you’ve never read Birdsong?’), and of how successful men often fail to take their wives’ careers seriously (‘I don’t do pottery. I make bronze sculptures.’)
The play also looks at how relationships are forged. Even in the most unlikely circumstances. Laura and James form a tenuous bond, based as much on distrust as on attraction. Davina and Alice, who have every reason to hate each other, find they have a mutual admiration for the work of Rodin’s lover.
There’s humour in almost every exchange, enough to keep the audience laughing through much of the evening. ‘That guy in the pub going on and on about his cocker spaniel’ Laura observes on the journey home, ‘and we thought he was talking about his wife. Until he said how good she was at pooing outside.’
Sparkling with wit, One of Those also looks deeply into the minds and motivations of its highly believable characters, and comes up with insightful conclusions. A tight script, taut direction and perfect casting result in a hugely entertaining production.
Author: Tom Ward-Thomas
Director: Amy Ewbank
Producer: United Theatrical/Trapdoor Productions
Booking until: 13 February
Box Office: 020 3841 6611
Booking Link: http://tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/whats-on/one-of-those