What Happens To The Hope At The End Of The Evening
4 stars ****
Forest Fringe, Out Of The Blue, Dalmeny Street
ON A BARE stage at Out Of The Blue, a man sits with a script spread out on a music stand in front of him. He is the theatre-maker Andy Smith; but he plunges immediately into a story in which he is a more fictional Andy, a theatre studies lecturer sitting in his house in Lancaster, waiting for his friend to visit from London. The friend is the great writer and performer Tim Crouch, or a fictional character who looks like Tim Crouch; and when he arrives, he brings with him a fierce and visible weight of unhappiness, paranoia, aggression. The two haven’t seen each other for years, although they once used to share a flat; the friend, whose life is a mess, has only come north to take part in an anti-English Defence League demonstration in Manchester, and is in a rage about the EDL, the police, the violence.
Yet as the friend – in a terrific performance from Crouch – rages and sulks and drinks and becomes increasingly, aggressively nervous of the gang of local kids hanging around outside, it gradually becomes apparent – in this brilliant piece of collaborative writing by two master makers – that the dysfunction is not all on one side. Andy, in his chair, constantly avoids his friend’s gaze, preferring to address the audience about the theoretical value of theatre in bringing people together; he has succumbed to what sounds like a suffocating domesticity with his Norwegian wife and little daughter, constantly asking his friend to remove his shoes (we all remove our shoes) and not to smoke in the house.
There’s something vital about male middle age here, something about north and south, something about the smugness of contentment, and the activist value of honest misery. And something about theatre, too; if only because at the end of 70 minutes, the two are stlll there, still talking, still in the same space; as they might not have been, if Tim and Andy hadn’t decided to make a show about them. Whether it will make any difference, though – well, that’s another question.
No Fringe entry.