Tristan Bates Theatre, London – until 13 February 2016
I can’t think of another play set like One of Those entirely on a train – Hecht and MacArthur’s On The Twentieth Century is the most persistently rail-bound but starts and ends in theatres, and even Patricia Highsmith’s murderous Strangers on a Train had their climax on a fairground carousel in Craig Warner’s stage adaptation at the Gielgud a couple of years back.
We join pleasant, twenty-something open-faced James on a mid-morning train from Paddington to Penzance as he plans to see his family for a weekend, first curious about and then sharply quizzed by seat-mate Laura. After their duologue resolves, there’s a time-shift back to the starting point and older characters play out a related drama in an adjacent carriage.
It’s like Ayckbourn, only funny.
Impossible to share the details without giving the plot away, but safe to say the piece depends on what happens when you make snap judgements about people based on appearance or the first things they say, and are then proved entirely wrong. We all do it. Every day. Although not with the crackling humour and unanticipated outcomes you see here.
Author Tom Ward-Thomas, who also plays James, has a fresh and individual voice. It’s rare for first-play authors to produce authentic middle class characters and dialogue, but Ward-Thomas does it with charm and conviction: much of the time it feels genuinely like you’re eavesdropping across the train aisle. Much more interesting than fiddling with your phone.
Apart from some cross-generational romance, there’s nothing challenging about One of Those – you could call it ‘easy listening’, but the naturalism of the performances, excellent casting, particularly Martin Ball and Louise Bangay as the older couple, and Amy Ewbank‘s unobtrusive but well-paced direction means the journey whizzes by.
Train geek trivia: the seats are from Thameslink, Great Western’s are navy with a wavy logo – and do their buffets really put chorizo in the panini? The dirty, dirty bastards.
Unable to face the panini, @paulinlondon and I repaired to a nearby Pret-A-Manger to record our AudioBoom. Listen here.
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