YOU meet up with somebody you thought you might be in love with, some time after they have apparently dumped you (or at least failed to contact you, as they promised, after a night that you will never forget).
But you both want to keep talking, even if it is awkward and neither of you is admitting that you remember what happened.
So you go to a cafe for a cup of coffee – and you meet a woman in a bonnet and sprigged muslin dress who talks in an oddly old-fashioned way.
It’s not your average romantic encounter in Lyme Regis – but then Lyme Regis is not your average seaside resort.
It is the setting for of one of the key scenes in Jane Austen’s Persuasion. It’s where the French Lieutenant’s Woman waits and waits … and waits. It’s where Mary Anning found fossils and ammonites and an ichthysaur and completely overturned our understanding of time and life on earth.
It’s a place where things happen and time – like the crumbly sandstone cliffs – can slip and slide …
So when Nicki meets Jacob and they meet Anne it hardly seems surprising when the 21st century slides back 200 years and present-day Nicki finds herself explaining everything from suffragettes to selfies to a baffled Anne.
Their stories are mirrored across 200 years – Anne was forcibly parted from the love of her life, doomed to the life of a put-upon spinster; Nicki and Jacob are also separated, not, as in Anne’s case, by well-meaning friends, but by Jacob’s blokish stupidity in deleting Nicki’s number as he heads back to his stag partying mates.
As they explore the strange differences between their worlds – what, Anne wonders, do the poor do, now that all their jobs are done by machines? (good question) – they find that there are also parallels. They explore how the lot of women was actually worse in the 1860s, the period of the French Lieutenant’s Woman, than it was in Regency England – and Anne marvels at the achievements of women in 2016.
Crysse Morrison’s play is full of wit and ideas, teasing our expectations, thought-provoking while never lecturing or scoring points, a clever exploration of the way we learn about ourselves, and how the things we have in common are more important than the things that separate us (including time).
The cast of three – Gabrielle Finnegan as Nicki, Matt Harrison as Jacob and Tiffany Rhodes as Anne Elliot managed their time-travelling characters with a light touch and a nice feel for the different periods.
Violinist Patrick Dunn provided the musical accompaniment.
Time Slides was presented by Nevertheless Fringe Theatre at Upstairs at The Cornerhouse, as part of this year’s Frome Festival.