It’s probably fair to say that Everything Theatre is very London-centric: it is so easy to fall into the trap of believing London is the be-all and end-all, not just of theatre, but of life in general. If it’s not happening in London, well, it just isn’t happening. Now we know that’s not true, but it is how Hope, our twenty-something narrator, views the big smoke from her small hometown in Cheshire. And it’s easy to see the glamour and excitement it has to offer, compared with what she feels is her dull life: still living at home, working in Tesco Metro and with a boyfriend who clearly doesn’t like to try anything different, as demonstrated by his reaction to her buying a vibrator. So, it’s no surprise when Hope makes the move; “I’m the first person from my college to venture further than Manchester” she proudly informs us.
Her excitement is only mildly diminished when she has to downgrade her dreams of renting that double room in Kensington, reckoning she will bump into stars of Made in Chelsea. Instead it’s a single room in the less glamorous South Tottenham. From there, well, slowly she realises that maybe the big city isn’t all glitzy parties and celeb spotting, as she once imagined.
As things sour, Hope very quickly grows up before us. It’s much to actor and writer Charlotte Anne-Tilley’s credit that she seems to physically change from excitable young person to worn down adult in the space of thirty minutes. The slightly childish talk of watching Toy Story is quickly forgotten, as she instead has to deal with the reality of the darker side of independent life, far from her home and the safety and protection of her family.
As with many short plays, there is some sense that themes are rushed through. Here we have the sexual harassment of young, vulnerable females played alongside the story of a small-town girl having to grow up fast in a big city. Both really need more space to form fully; to breathe. But what we do get is a taste of the potential of this play to develop. It’s clear that doubling its run time wouldn’t be a problem when it is ready for its real stage debut.
There is plenty to love about Twenties. For a play that is 95% monologue and so obviously filmed during lockdown, it still has a spacious feel; from the changing locations (more than likely just different rooms in the same home, but it still works,) to the sprinkling of quick cut-aways that introduce Hope’s family and friends. These seem delightfully full in character, even if they only appear for seconds; the indifferent dad in his armchair, reading the newspaper and hardly acknowledging the life changing news she delivers, is a comic delight. But if we’re handing out praise, then the costume improvisation takes top billing: the dinosaur outfit is a work of stunning art that Blue Peter would be proud of, and I say that with absolute sincerity.
Twenties is a delightful short play that demonstrates how strong writing and wonderful improvisation can deliver big results. It clearly has a way to go before the final version, but is one well worth looking out for soon in a London (because London is the centre of the world, as we’ve discovered) theatre space.
Written by: Charlotte Anne-Tilley
Directed by: Kate Somerton
Produced by: Charlotte Anne Tilly Productions
Twenties is playing as part of Online@TheSpaceUK Season 2, and will be available free until 31 January. This show, plus many others, can be found on the website below.