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Review: When Sarah Arrives, White Bear Theatre

Adam, Sarah and Matt are in an uncomfortable ménage à trois. It’s time to resolve the thing like adults, talk it through, have it out, lose the third wheel. And that’s just what they’ll do….as soon as Sarah arrives. In the meantime, it’s just Adam and Matt, trapped together in Adam’s leaky house, claiming ‘the girl is mine’ like a modern-day Jackson and McCartney. This is a situation ripe with comic potential, and writer-performers Connor McCrory and Joseph Ryan-Hughes certainly harvest some of it. Ryan-Hughes, as Matt, has a naturally comical demeanour, his limbs and goof a nice contrast…

Summary

Rating

Good

A promising situation comedy with a pleasing taste for the absurd.

User Rating: 2.72 ( 2 votes)

Adam, Sarah and Matt are in an uncomfortable ménage à trois. It’s time to resolve the thing like adults, talk it through, have it out, lose the third wheel. And that’s just what they’ll do….as soon as Sarah arrives. In the meantime, it’s just Adam and Matt, trapped together in Adam’s leaky house, claiming ‘the girl is mine’ like a modern-day Jackson and McCartney.

This is a situation ripe with comic potential, and writer-performers Connor McCrory and Joseph Ryan-Hughes certainly harvest some of it. Ryan-Hughes, as Matt, has a naturally comical demeanour, his limbs and goof a nice contrast with McCrory’s seething resentment. Their rather unmanly physical skirmishes are beautifully choreographed and entirely ridiculous, whilst the petulance of seeking ‘leverage’ over the other, or trying to withhold use of the loo, is amusingly relatable.

There is a pleasing taste for the absurd here, and a relish for the sly. Adam with a tissue up his nose and Matt pinching tulips are funny, but not quite as funny as they could be. The characters are not played straight enough, and they have no room for development. Both men are pretty tragic from the get-go, partly thanks to the indignity of waiting for Sarah, but mostly through their own fault; Adam in his PJs, Matt with his bite-size Snickers, neither with much hint of a hinterland. Whatever the play throws at them there is little scope for reduction in dignity, so we miss out on the tragicomic effect of steady degradation. 

Likewise, there is a lack of credibility in the context and backstory. We are given assorted bits of information – about the neighbour, about the kebab shop, about Matt’s night-time exploits – that don’t quite hang together in a coherent narrative. There is plenty of scope to increase the realism, and indeed improve the characterisation, without compromising the absurdity. The design, by Laura Mugford, certainly strives for realism, being full of small details that support the plot and, within the constraints of a black box theatre, very convincingly create the landscape of a young couple’s home. 

This is a great set-up for a tragicomedy, there are good ideas and an attention to detail in the staging. But unlike Adam’s pizza, it’s not quite fully cooked. With a bit of fine-tuning this could be a really funny situation comedy.

Written by: Connor McCrory and Joseph Ryan-Hughes
Directed by: Macadie Amoroso

When Sarah Arrives plays at the White Bear Theatre until 17 July. Further information and booking via the below link.

About Clare Annamalai

Clare works in arts administration, after a previous career in retail and pharmaceuticals. She is a backseat driver of Everything Theatre, and navigator to two children. Always more positively disposed to shows that publish their running time.