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This Time Tomorrow
Published on Sunday, 15 May 2011

4.5 stars

Hanover Community Centre
14-15 May, 12:00pm-1:00pm, 1:30pm-2:30pm, 3:00pm-4:00pm, 4:30pm-5:30pm, 6:00pm-7:00pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Suitable for age 18+ only.
 World Premiere.

Four parked cars and four short plays.  Two actors in the front, three spectators in the back.  Site-specific theatre, it turns out, doesn’t always rely on a jaw-dropping site; thanks to compelling acting and some pitch-perfect scripts, the familiarity of an ordinary car is as exciting as any abandoned mansion or forgotten jail.


There’s a lot of social conditioning at work here, as sitting in the back seat of someone else’s motor, you’re both occupying their territory and invited into their lives.  There are a couple of well-judged nods to the presence of an audience, but in the main they just pretend we’re not there, building a thrilling, uncomfortable sense of eavesdropping in a very private space.  Like it or not, you’re drawn into the conversation – and until I’d got used to it, I constantly had to remind myself not to chip in.

And while the view from the back seats is limited, that serves only to heighten the effect.  Wherever you’re sat, you’ll get a good look at one of the two actors, while the other’s reactions are something you’ll sometimes have to infer.  I’m not sure whether it was accident or design, but I particularly enjoyed watching one emotional piece reflected in the rear-view mirror – with just the eyes to judge how a character was taking some potentially devastating news.  In a theatre, it would have been an annoying affectation; in the realistic setting of the car, less was definitely more.

The scripts themselves are almost all strong, and there’s a nice variety in the relationships between the driver and their passenger.  The obvious one is there – a gawky boy meets a shy young girl, and hilarity ensues – but they’ve given it a quirky twist, with a cute courtship ritual built around card tricks.  It’s genuinely funny, warm and charming, and the nervous excitement works brilliantly in the cramped confines of a beaten-up Corsa.  To balance it out, another car hosts a far more serious story of unrequited love, with a twist that’s very Brighton.  As the protagonists reach tentatively across the gap between the front seats, they’re trying to reach out to each other; and I wanted them to manage it so badly, I was literally holding my breath for the conclusion.

There’s just one piece I didn’t like so much, set in a camper van, which poked good-natured fun at New Age indulgences but felt like a ten-minute sketch stretched out to fifteen.  It was nice to have an out-and-out comic number thrown in, but it lacked the intensity of the other pieces.  In contrast, my favourite script of all was the one with two sisters – the bubbly outgoing one and the sensible sardonic one – which will strike a chord with anyone who’s ever had to suffer a really annoying person in their car.  There’s far more to it than that, though, and the sudden switch from fluffy banter to family drama was magnificently done.

I’m not always a fan of mixed bills, but three-and-a-half hits out of four performances is plenty of miles per gallon, and it’s just a shame this cleverly-designed piece has such a short run.  It’s a sociable experience, too – I had a fair old natter with the two ladies who were crammed into the cars with me – and while they’d never tried anything quite like this before, it was clear they’d enjoyed it as much as I did.  So, grab some friends, or go on your own… but do find the time to hop on board.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2011.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.