The old ones are the best, so they say. And it’s true: all art, and drama in particular, needs to show us familiar, relatable things before surprising us by reflecting them in a new light. This excellent relationship play is a perfect example of an instantly recognisable situation played out with real theatrical expertise.
Buttoned-up Rupert (Huw Parmenter) bumps into mouthy free spirit Alex (Gemma Lawrence) on the morning commute. Although not an obvious pairing, soon they are dating, then co-habiting, then expecting a child. But when tragedy strikes, their lives are torn apart. Will their love withstand their loss?
If the plot doesn’t sound hugely original, that’s because it isn’t. But the bones of the story aren’t the thing here – it’s in the telling that this production excels.
Lawrence and Parmenter give superb performances of wonderful humanity. Their charm and charisma succeed in raising these archetypal characters above parody or staleness. Although the hapless man/feisty woman dynamic has been explored many times before, the actors bring a real freshness to the partnership. They’re supremely watchable, with impeccable timing and genuine chemistry.
It helps, of course, that they’re working with some absolutely cracking material. Cordelia O’Neill’s script brims with insight, compassion, and a lot of laughs, even during Alex and Rupert’s darkest hours. She’s created a thoroughly believable relationship with two rounded characters, both of whom are a mix of numerous conflicting and contrasting traits.
Director Kate Budgen seamlessly choreographs the action, making use of every inch of the space. She keeps it pacey but at the same time is not afraid to let important beats rest and resonate before moving things along again.
The simple but effective set, sound and lighting design are all precisely pitched to compliment O’Neill’s script and the cast’s extremely fine performances.
This is not a show that re-invents the wheel. But in a production as polished and involving as this, that really doesn’t matter at all.
Written by: Cordelia O’Neill
Directed by: Kate Budgen
Produced by: Philip Scott-Wallace for Small Things Theatre
Anything Is Possible If You Think About it Hard Enough plays at Southwark Playhouse until 9 October. Further information and booking via the below link.