Roberta (Hannah Ellis Ryan) and Danny (Danny Solomon) meet in a near-deserted downtown bar. They both dislike and distrust people and shy away from human interactions, but both are inexplicably drawn to each other, possibly because they recognise a kindred and damaged spirit. They begin an aggressive conversation. Danny is quick-tempered and violent. He is covered with bruises, and fears he might have killed a man. Roberta’s past involved child abuse in the form of paedophilia incest, which she instigated, leaving her with feelings of guilt and self-loathing. On the surface, both characters are hostile and unlikeable, but as details of their troubled pasts emerge, we grow to understand why they behave the way they do.
They spar, verbally and physically. Surprisingly, there is some humour in their volatile exchanges. As the shouting and hitting abates, they inevitably embark on a one night stand and drunkenly make plans for a future together. Here, there are moments of genuine tenderness and real glimpses of hope that possibly they will manage to turn their lives around.
While most of the dialogue is naturalistic, there are a few moments that could have been clunkily embarrassing, such as Roberta’s speech about the sea, but fortunately, Hannah Ellis Ryan imbues it with a credibility and resonance that it would otherwise lack. Danny Solomon reveals that behind his character’s gruff aggression, there is a surprising and endearing gentleness, and both disparate sides are very believable. The plot is really very simple. I think it’s fair to say the strength of the show is in the performances; they act their pants off. The American accents are very credible, the aggression is palpable and the physical acting – the slapping and violence – is very well executed. (And probably very painful.)
As a two-handed piece, the leads are on the stage all the time; the whole play is made up of their dialogue and interactions in the space of less than a day. It is an immensely intense and powerful piece and certainly the right length at just over an hour. It is a love story and a hate story. And the hate is directed within, more so than at the other person. It is a taut and forceful insight into other people's troubled lives.
Reviewer: Gray Freeman
Reviewed: 11th September 2019
North West End Rating: ★★★★