IF you told Laura and Danny, the characters in David Eldridge’s play Beginning, about agricultural workers from Yorkshire walking over the Pennines to Lancashire every weekend to court their lasses, it would be like discussing ancient history.
But, oddly, their dreams and wishes are the same, maybe proving that the more it changes, the more it stays the same.
Laura is the MD of a property company, in her late 30s, alone and lonely. Danny is an Essex boy whose History degree from Bristol Uni is an encumbrance in the company he keeps. He’s a divorced father with no confidence in his ability to do anything or be anyone.
At the end of Laura’s housewarming party in Crouch End, Danny is still around. The mutual attraction they have felt throughout the evening is starkly exposed as the lights go on and the empties, snacks and glittery foil litter the tables and carpets.
Is Danny on the pull at the end of the party? Is Laura ready for an accompanied bed? That’s surely what it looks like at the start of the play. Both are a bit drunk and still drinking, but they are long past any euphoria.
For the first few minutes, most of Danny’s jokey lines are delivered upstage, making it very difficult for the audience to hear the detail, but it’s the cadence and flavour that matter – laddish banter, silly stories, family myths. As the 2017 hundred-minute play progresses, these two London singletons flay their hearts and souls, frightened of hope, terrified of disappointment, eager for approbation both virtual and real. It’s sometimes funny, often bleak, chillingly solitary. As Maurice Chevalier once sang, I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore.
Simon Darwen and Amanda Ryan turn in intense and extraordinary performances. No emotion is left unexplored in this powerful play, which compels its audience to care about the outcome of what one critic described as a “will-they-won’t-they-rom-com.” It’s rather more than that.
It is at Bath until Saturday, and tickets are still available.