The Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch is a contemporary and welcoming venue, with reassuring temperature checks and lovely refreshment facilities upon arrival. The auditorium is spacious, comfortable and filled with a majority of mask wearing spectators. Given that David Eldridge’s ‘Beginning’ was an absolute hit when it was at the National Theatre in 2017, it isn’t surprising to see people venturing out to catch it again.
Beginnings is a story that centres around two middle-class people approaching their middle age. Simon Darwen as Danny and Amanda Ryan as Laura have a wonderful chemistry, having clearly worked hard to ensure that not a beat of the characters relationship is missed. Darwen is particularly endearing, allowing us to empathise; he is cheeky yet sincere. Ryan’s characterisation of Laura is so precise and assured, we know this character, exactly who she is and what she wants. Credit to the performers and director Joe Lichtenstein for sustaining balance on stage, even when the mood of the characters became erratic or intense. The narrative is clear and the audience can feel safe and involved throughout.
Designer Fly Davis alongside associate Libby Todd have created the beautiful contemporary apartment that Laura resides, from the oven to the party decorations- it is easy to forget that we are sitting in a theatre.
But, for me, there isn’t a feeling of necessity or drive behind this production. We have a witty and playful text being competently performed with skill on a dazzling set. This play had its time and more than deserved the praises that it received but one must ask themselves if now was the right moment for it to return. There was a lack of ‘2021’ in this production and I think we should ask ourselves is it necessary to revive a play just because we like it, or because we want to. Theatre has the potential to be much more.
This said, nothing is to be taken away from the hard work and skill that has gone into the play. Eldridge’s text continues to make us laugh and feel. The creative team set up a safe and engaging space and then the actors run with it. If you enjoy Eldridge’s work, or plays about growing old, relationships and beginnings, then do see this production.
Written by: David Eldridge
Directed by: Joe Lichtenstein
Produced by: National Theatre production in association with Queens Theatre Hornchurch.
Design by: Fly Davis and Libby Todd.
Beginning plays at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch until 18 September 2021 before transferring to Theatre Royal Bath between 24 Sep – 2 Oct.