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Review: Moments/Empty Beds, at Hope Theatre

Double bill manages to represent difficult social issues, especially mental health, in the context of the everyday

08 February, 2018 — By Billie Manning

The hard-hitting Empty Beds is at the Hope Theatre

IN this double bill written by Julia Cranney, Pennyworth Productions aims to start conversations about subjects that are often avoided.

The first of the two plays, Moments, portrays the serendipitous connection between 26-year-old Ava (Julia Cranney), and middle-aged security guard Daniel (Simon Mattacks). Isolated and lonely, their meeting comes at a crucial time for both of them.

The play gets off to a slow start with each character narrating the other’s actions as they happen, a slightly laborious device. The play comes into its own when the pair begin to interact with a particularly appealing back-and-forth about chickens. From there we are treated to some sweet comic moments between the two, and Cranney and Mattacks play their parts with grace.

The delicate Moments is followed by the hard-hitting Empty Beds. Three sisters are on board a train to visit their brother for his birthday, and the play follows their physical and emotional journey in real time.

Both Cranney’s writing and Kate Treadwell’s direction are so sensitive and skilful in this piece that the simple premise proves hugely engaging, with a carefully controlled reveal of the reason for the sisters’ discord. The chemistry between the actors is wonderfully sharp, and the speed at which the characters swing from loving one another to warring against each other is accurate enough to make anyone with sisters wince.

In both pieces, the set is simple but effective, and it is particularly pleasing that the seating is completely changed during the interval, keeping each piece individual, though connected by theme.

Pennyworth Productions has certainly achieved its goals, with each piece managing to represent difficult social issues, especially mental health, in the context of the everyday. Highly recommended.

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