Friday, 3 November 2017
Beginning at The Dorfman
It‘s such a treat to be privy to a new play that is more than worth the ticket price. Beginning, now playing at The Dorfman, is one such production. Written by David Eldridge, Beginning is a two-hander charting the possible start of a new relationship. Whilst the majority of friendships/’sexships’ nowadays begin on-line, what happens when two mid-lifers are faced with getting to know one another face to face?
Set in Managing Director Laura’s new Crouch End flat, where she has been holding a party to celebrate her new acquisition, everyone has gone home apart from East Ender Danny. The couple haven’t met before and who knows if they will ever meet again.
Our first glimpse of Danny is his back view and we’re immediately aware of his discomfort, which is enhanced as soon as he turns round. This action is a taster of Polly Findlay’s exquisite direction. She, with the help of Justine Mitchell and Sam Troughton ensure that this funny, touching and droll insight into the loneliness often felt by today’s singletons caught up in dating apps and phony postings on social media, delights from start to finish.
Justine Mitchell’s Laura initially seems to be the one who is more in control and it’s credit to her brilliant portrayal that, despite the outward appearances, we soon become aware that she has as many hang-ups as Sam Troughton’s Danny. Being successful at work, with enough income to own her own property doesn’t guarantee that her weekends aren’t spent alone. Danny, too, isn’t happy. Divorced and separated from his seven-year-old daughter, who he hasn’t seen since she was three, he has been forced to move back home to his mum and nan. He has been desperately hurt and is guarded about committing to any type of relationship, especially the one on Laura’s agenda. His initial laddish behaviour hides a sincere and gentle man, anxious not to make the same mistake twice.
The two of them spend the one hour and forty minutes running time getting to know one another. There are glaring gaffes, truthful admissions and the hint of a mutual attraction, and Findlay has no fear in allowing prolonged awkward silences whilst the couple take on board what’s been said. Initially any attempt by Laura to get physically closer to Danny is met with evasive and delaying tactics. One particularly amusing attempt at keeping the predatory Laura at bay is for him to suggest a preliminary flat clean up. She watches in disbelief as he shakes out a bin bag and proceeds to fill it with the party detritus, whilst periodically placing yet another empty beer bottle neatly on a shelf. Later on, when his nervousness is beginning to ebb, the two start to dance, until Danny, gradually digesting what Laura is suggesting, comes to a near stand-still. Nothing is said and doesn’t need to be; the unintended metaphoric slap in the face for Laura and her plan is painfully obvious.
There isn’t a dud note in the whole production. Designer Fly Davis realistically portrays the after party scene of empty bottles, Pringle packets and drooping streamers. In fact realism and truth is the name of the game, from David Eldrige’s pitch perfect dialogue, Polly Findlay’s expert choreography and Justine Mitchell and Sam Troughton’s immersion into Laura and Danny.
From Beginning to end, this play is an absolute joy.