Review: Moments & Empty Beds, Hope Theatre

“Why are we talking about eggs”

A double bill of short plays by Julia Cranney, Moments & Empty Beds offer up a neatly incisive look at the modern world through the eyes of those whose stories aren’t heard as often as they should. Those having to shoulder the burden of a failing mental health system,  those who bear the brunt of society’s rudeness towards service workers, those who don’t have the support systems in place that so many take for granted.

Moments follows the unlikely friendship that blossoms between Ava – in her early twenties and living in London for six months now,  working in a call centre – and Daniel, fifty-something, somehow estranged from his family and paying the bills with a job as a car park security guard (and no, he can’t help you with your ticket). Nothing too much exciting happens in their lives but as they describe the minutiae of everyday life in all its unassuming banality, these details accumulate into a weighty portrait of two ever so slightly desperate souls.

Subtly taking in such weighty subjects as the isolation that too easily accompanies metropolitan living and the huge cost that can come with the revelation of huge personal truths, Moments has the deceptive appearance of being slight but builds into something moving in the hands of Cranney’s intense Ava and Simon Mattacks’ hapless Daniel, both having made big changes in their lives but still struggling to find a place in a world they thought would accept them more readily. (It does ask a lot of a London audience though to believe, that this pair would get the exact same bus every day!)

Empty Beds switches focus to a trio of sisters who are on the exact same mode of transport, a train this time, as they travel down to celebrate their younger brother’s birthday. In real time, shared histories and uncertain futures swirl around the carriage as a vivid portrait of sisterhood appears alongside the unique pressures that accompany the particular circumstance that emerges. Director Kate Treadell controls the release of information well and brings in enough dynamism to this essentially static scene that keeps it compelling. A writer, and a company, to look out for.

Running time: 2 hours (with interval)
Photos: Nick Reed
Booking until 17th February

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