Last night I took a trip back to high school to see their latest play, not led by the drama department (all hail the mighty Richards), but by an ex-student, James Allen. Having been involved with the drama department back in the day, it was fantastic to see how the other familiar faces have grown, and to now watch from an outsider’s perspective was exciting, if a little unnerving.
**SPOILER FREE POST**
The play, Until Then, which was written and directed by James Allen (who also composed the music), tells the story of two couples as they go through life together. Abi Simpkin and Will Griffiths are a perfect match as Philip and Jill, and Lucas Walsh and Pip Hyde complement each other beautifully as Mitchell and Vic. The performance features a minimal set, seamless technical operation from Mark McLean, and a poignant score. It was funny and touching, and I loved it.
The story was led through character, through their words as much as their physicality and motion. There were interludes of a more physical theatre approach threaded through the performance, and these moments are enhancing and not jarring, a reflection on James’s direction. The minimal set is used to its full potential to both isolate and bring together – a favourite moment of mine being the use of the chairs to create a path for Jill to cross during her monologue.
In fact, the character monologues were my stand-out moments of the piece, unusually for me. Will Griffiths provides a moving retelling of his memories of an earlier life in his monologue, and my favourite performance moment came from Lucas Walsh during his bittersweet musings on the fatherhood he never experienced.
But for me, the thing that stood out the most was the writing. Until Then covers some tough, emotional topics, as our characters go through the turmoils of life, and they are dealt with with a sensitivity beyond James’s years. He has an exceptional understanding of humanity, and he captures this artfully. In the beginning, the two couples face the future together, and the hope their lives ahead will bring, and we travel with them on their journey as we see hopes and loves both realised and lost. James’s words command attention, and his cast masterfully communicate his meaning – the amount of work that has gone into this production is clear, and they are a tight-knit group, with great understanding of each other.
James writes dialogue with a natural flow, and the subtle progression in this as the characters age is remarkable; all achieved, in both script and acting, without falling into cliché. Every member of the production showed great skill and promise with what they delivered, and I can only hope that they get the audience they deserve tonight as well. I can’t wait to see what the promise of their future looks like, and one more round of applause from me!