“Do I sense a wider deeper sense of wonder and mayhem?”
I have a great sense of affection for Will Eno’s Oh, the Humanity and Other Good Intentions for a previous production at the Soho Theatre introduced me to the glorious talents of Lucy Ellinson. So this production at the Tabard Theatre, the debut show for the End of Moving Walkway company, was something I was keen to fit into the diary, not least because director Paul Lichtenstern has flipped the script in terms of casting a company of nine rather than having three actors covering multiple roles.
It’s a collection of five short plays that at their simplest, touch on the randomness and ordinariness of life and all its ups and downs. Connected by a (scarcely needed) directorial innovation that sees the action play out in Andy Edwards’ photography studio-like set design, Eno’s writing revels in dense wordplay as many of his characters struggle to deal with the situations in which they find themselves – a demanding press conference, the aftermath of a plane crash, emotional crises – and the cumulative effect can occasionally become a little wearing.
What saves it though is the intriguing depth of acting that comes from this fresh-faced young company. Jonathan Kemp’s sports coach has a powerful sense of presence that dominates the intimate space, Esmé Patey-Ford and Joseph Stevenson have a gorgeously painted connection that makes their scene really crackle with chemistry and Rebecca Herod and Philip Nightingale’s work in the photographer scene (my personal favourite) is exemplary, capturing the deepening of the mood from the more comic moments that have preceded it.
Claire Lichie probably has the most striking role as a hapless spokeswoman for an airline dealing with a crash as she swings dramatically from comedy and tragedy in quite a disarming piece of theatre and one which she delivers well. It certainly gives confidence in End of Moving Walkway and marks them as a company to keep an eye on.