Two Couples, Two Pubs, Two Countries
3rd May 2019
The Keep Pub, Guildford
Type of Production
Two one act plays
Author: Pauline Surrey
Two short plays, ‘Catherine Medbh’ by Declan Feenan and ‘Peas’ by David Tristram, set in in pub, presented in a pub, in the upstairs bar. The first set in Ireland, the second in England. Different authors, different topics dealing with quite different stages in relationships between two couples. What was exciting here, apart from the fine plays, was the fact that the link between the two was the characterful barmaid, a creation of the Guildburys, and more specifically the barmaid herself, who wrote her own script! Challenging and innovative theatre – that’s what the Guildburys are known for!
The programme consisted of one A4 sheet, very simple yet FULL of information, with even space for a mention of NODA. Set out as a 3 course menu: ‘Starter’ was the Pub Owner’s first piece; ‘First Course’ was ‘Catherine Medbh’, and ‘Second Course’ was ‘Peas’. We had thanks given to the pub, which was not charging a fee. The Director’s Note was so interesting and wide in scope, telling of the rationale behind the choice of plays and the creation of the Pub Owner’s role. There followed details of the next 3 Guildburys productions for 2019, so all told a very exciting read.
Now to the production. A young man in a pub. The longstanding landlady serves him his drink, and tells us something about him. She is the ideal landlady, warm and friendly, chatty but not too chatty, observant but not over-curious, never eaves-dropping, one senses that she is her own person who wouldn’t need the thrill of tittle-tattle and gossip. A kind lady, a discreet person, ideal.
Enter a young woman. Had she arranged to meet someone? He addresses her, offers her a drink, she says she is not staying. It emerges over the course of their conversation that they had been in a relationship. We gradually learn that it had been a very special one. She doesn’t remove her beret, very telling that, she’s not staying. Slowly we move from a certain indifference to this nondescript young man, and this flippant sounding, smart young woman in her beret, to feelings of empathy so deep (certainly in my case) that we are almost reduced to tears. Brilliant writing this. Very painful to watch. But it speaks for the superb acting skills of James Martin (Him) and Amy de Roche (Her), able to convey all there was in this piece so clearly, so gradually, so gently. I cannot remember when I was last touched by a play to this degree.
There followed a very welcome interval. I must now also mention another amazing thing. Both James Martin and Amy de Roche had excellent Irish accents, that they kept consistently throughout the piece. This greatly added to the feel of the play.
So now for the second course. Once again, the landlady sets her scene. Fantastic performance – and writing- here from Caroline Ross, she of the kind eyes one could safely pour out one’s soul to. A young woman in a pub, waiting, looking at her watch. Waiting, of course, to meet her latest online date. She gives up, leaves, only to return when he does in fact turn up. So he has had to wait a little for her, then.
Obviously he, Gerry, is not at all what she, Daisy, had been expecting, and this is where the comedy starts. It moves in fits and starts, as Daisy frequently nearly walks out. She (super performance from Amy Yorston) is worldly-wise, takes a somewhat cynical approach to this dating lark, she knows what she wants, what she doesn’t want, or does she? Gerry, who is much older and much more, well, average, than she had been led to believe, has totally different interests from Daisy. Glyn Rogers also gives a great performance here. He’s nonchalant at first, also experienced at the dating game, yet one senses he is quite sensitive underneath. And so they bat their ‘getting to know you’ conversation back and forth, and we suspect it will all come to nothing. Great comedic timing, great facial expressions, tilts of the head, exasperation on her part, gentle resigned chuckles on his. Much laughter in the audience. But then, suddenly, hey ho, off they go together!
Tessa Duggleby chose two perfect pieces of theatre-in-a-pub-setting for this lovely, cosy venue. Great emotion in the first, the tension eased by the laughter in the second. She produced excellent performances all round from her cast of five. I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next!