Reviews Brighton Published 7 May 2014

what happens to the hope at the end of the evening

Brighton Dome ⋄ 3rd-5th May 2014

An exercise in disconnection.

Tracey Sinclair

Tim Crouch and Andy Smith’s collaboration is described as ‘a slippage of fact and fiction… a fictional person intersecting with a real life.’ The piece stems from the existing friendship between the two men and takes the form of a late night clash between two people with two very different lifestyles, but this meshing of reality and invention makes for an uneven whole, never feeling as honest as fact or as imaginative as fiction; what could have been a compelling examination of how male friendship works feels more like an extended dramatic exercise.

There is something about Karl James’ production which jars slightly from the start. Smith, seated and reading from his script on an (initially) almost bare stage, greets the audience, explaining that he is waiting for the man who is already standing, glowering, next to him.

Smith is someone whose life is happily on track – marriage, children, a mortgage, all the requisite boxes ticked – and in the process he has become estranged from his former friend. Crouch’s character has all the hallmarks of the disruptive influence come to wreak havoc on that comfortable set up: his own marriage is in pieces, he drinks, swears, is unnecessarily confrontational and sees his friend’s contentment as an almost personal affront: reading into mundane requests  – to take his shoes off inside, not to smoke indoors – some slight against his own circumstances. He clearly courts the very chaos of which he complains: convincing himself some local youths are going to cause trouble, needlessly shoplifting from his friend’s local store.

The injection of an anarchic influence into the domestic sphere isn’t the most original of ideas and, as is usually the case with such collisions, the piece seems torn between acknowledging the destructive nature of Crouch’s presence and finding it exciting and alluring: after all, it’s his unpredictability which is the driver of what little action there is in the play. While his behaviour – self-hating, self-destructive, ultimately pushing away the people to whom he is trying to cling – is antagonistic, he’s also the devil who gets all the best lines. Crouch is funny, furious, a tightly wound coil of anger in contrast to Smith’s unflappable geniality, which too often comes across as slightly smug.

There’s an ambiguity in this conflict that recognises that the divide between ‘good guy’ and ‘bad guy’ isn’t a clean cut one: for instance, Crouch’s political engagement (he’s in town because he attended an anti-fascist march) is portrayed as a sign of his immaturity, as something the grown ups of the world have left behind. Adulthood is worrying about shoeprints on your nice carpets, not concerning yourself with the problems of strangers. Crouch’s man-child is annoying, certainly – you wouldn’t want him turning up as your own houseguest – but I can’t say I warmed to Smith, either.

The seeds of an interesting confrontation are sown, but despite some very funny moments, I felt it defanged itself through an inability to commit to the narrative; as a piece it seems too interested in the mechanics of storytelling to make the story itself compelling.

This is exemplified by the attempts at audience participation: Smith asks us to shake hands and introduce ourselves to one another at the start (my neighbour and I exchanged cynical nods and demurred, a reaction not untypical) and, later, exhorts us all to take our shoes off and make ourselves at home, a request the audience this time roundly ignores: Smith doesn’t have the presence to compel anyone to action, especially when such action feels inconsequential to the story.

Throughout the production, he addresses us rather than his ‘friend’, creating a distance between himself and the events on stage, safely speaking at one remove.  He also routinely interjects statements about theatrical theory into proceedings, which at times simply feel like padding. He talks of the need for connection – at the heart of Crouch’s fall is the fact that he has become disconnected from everyone: wife, friends, even his own past – but the writing itself is also engaged in the act of pushing its audience away, breaking that connection with unnecessary layers and barriers.

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Tracey Sinclair

Tracey Sinclair is a freelance editor and writer, a published author and performed playwright. She writes for a number of print and online magazines and most recently has focused on the Dark Dates series of books, including A Vampire in Edinburgh. You can follow her on Twitter under the profoundly misleading name @thriftygal

what happens to the hope at the end of the evening Show Info


Directed by Karl James

Written by Tim Crouch & Andy Smith

Cast includes Tim Crouch, Andy Smith

Link http://brightonfestival.org/event/2399/what_happens_to_the_hope_at_the_end_of_the_evening/

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