The West End transfer of this heartwarming and engaging new play from David Eldridge has plenty to keep the audience engaged and entertained throughout.
It is easy to see why after coming out of this lovely little show it has proved so popular with audiences and critics alike. With its two socially awkward characters trying to combat loneliness but who find dating in the modern world difficult, Eldridge’s play is wonderfully relatable and enjoyable to watch unfold.
Set during the aftermath of a housewarming party, it is clear that Laura and Danny are attracted to each other – but both feel uncomfortable about taking their defences down and letting the other person get close to them.
For Danny, though, it is particularly difficult and as he says to Laura: “I wish I had met you online. Everything would be so much easier.” That just sums up the idea of a modern relationship in this era of internet dating and Facebook.
Eldridge has created a play which beautifully and hilariously examines the impact social media has had on people’s ability to form deep and meaningful relationships without a computer screen, as well as dealing with fears of loneliness.
Throughout his writing there is a beautiful balance between genuinely heartfelt moments, in which Laura and Danny feel as though they have a connection, mixed with awkward moments that put a smile on the audience’s face. Everything about it feels genuine.
Meanwhile, Polly Findlay has brought it all to life with great sensitivity and warmth, showcasing the strength of the writing perfectly. Occasionally it relies too much on long pauses – while they highlight the awkwardness between the characters, the approach slows the pacing down slightly too much so that the audience can be in danger of losing interest in places.
But the whole thing is held together perfectly by Justine Mitchell (Laura) and Sam Troughton (Danny), who both are extremely likeable as two very lonely people who realise that loneliness is actually something they have in common. Troughton in particular is endearing in his role through his twitchy mannerisms that captures Danny’s anxiety as well as the way in which he does anything to avoid Laura’s advances (including tidying up) is a really lovely and natural performance.
In contrast, Justine Mitchell’s character is driven by loneliness to become more forward But through her performance Mitchell manages to draw out sympathy from the audience by laying her feelings out on the table for Danny in a heartfelt way that is easy to relate to. The way in which she tries to come onto him is painful to watch as you sense that Danny would rather take things slower but due to her performance it is perfectly believable.
Overall, Beginning is a wonderfully heartfelt and engaging production that really gets to the heart of the problems of modern relationships and loneliness, brought to life by two endearing and enjoyable performances.