Ambassadors Theatre, London – until 24 March 2018
Laura is 38 years old. She’s just bought a new flat in Crouch End and is the successful managing director of a company. She’s an unapologetic feminist. She’s desperately lonely and wants a child, but has hatched a plan to get herself knocked up.
Danny is 42, lives with his mum in Essex and works in middle management. He’s divorced and has a child he never sees. He’s a lad’s lad. He’s also desperately lonely and drifting through life with little direction.
So it’s simultaneously hilarious and awkward when the two are the last ones standing at Laura’s housewarming, having only just met. As the drinking continues, the comedy remains – but pain and vulnerability soon move to the forefront. Taking place in real time, David Eldridge’s two-hander is a delicate ode to anyone feeling like a failure in light of society’s pressure to have it all.
There are dozens of wonderful moments, ranging from poignant to painfully funny, as the two navigate something between them that may or may not be there, and may or may not come to anything. Though the pair’s dynamic is the epitome of modern dating, it also brings to light the feelings of inadequacy that come with not having ticked all the boxes society has set out for us to achieve. There are plenty of surprises, but nothing feels untenable.
The distinct but subtle dramatic arc is crafted with care and precision without feeling mechanical, and Polly Findlay’s direction consistently paces the dialogue effectively. Nothing feels rushed that shouldn’t be, nor is anything overly-laboured. Justine Mitchell and Sam Troughton both give exquisite performances that fluctuate between unavailability and emotional catharsis.
Opportunities for personal resonance are rife. Though the story focuses on two people at a point where they feel like they’re running out of time, both older and younger audiences will be able to relate. The balance between levity and gravity is spot on, carrying the character journeys with buoyancy. The accurate reflection of contemporary society is certainly a case of holding a mirror up to nature, and the clarity of this reflection means this play has the makings of a modern classic.