Writer: Julia Cranney
Director: Richard Speir
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
Loneliness is the scourge of modern society, especially for those who move to the big city with dreams of exciting lifestyles and endless Instagram opportunities. The reality can be quite different as people struggle to establish themselves in a sea of strangers, where opportunities to meet people are genuinely few and far between. But Julia Cranney’s new play Moments reminds us that a sudden change in circumstances can mean that even the most well-established Londoner can find themselves all alone.
Ava and Daniel see each other everyday on the same bus to and from work, but they never speak or even acknowledge each other. She’s 26, has a job in a call centre with life before her, while he’s 56 and a car park security booth operator; with 30 years between them, what could two complete strangers possibly have in common? When Ava drops her shopping one day the awkwardness begins to thaw but can they possibly be friends?
Julia Cranney’s 50-minute comic play is the gentle and warm-hearted story of two people ground down by the circumstances of their lives in London which feels like an honest insight into how loneliness is created and sustained. It uses children’s TV-esque narrative to describe the actions of the characters, and occasionally their emotions, which help to build a picture of the empty routines they both embark on each day.
Although the device feels quite repetitive in the first 25 minutes, it is used less and less as Daniel and Ava interact in longer, more revealing conversations, but the narration is sustainable because the actors are deliberately doing something slightly different to the voice-over. Cranney captures the awkwardness of those interactions well, but gives both characters a sharp humour that makes the audience root for them.
Cranney plays Ava who after just six months in London is already jaded and exhausted by the emptiness of the life she has created. But Cranney also gives her a proud streak, unwilling to ask for help and determined to pretend to her parents that her life is full of exciting dinners and parties, which adds to the sadness of her situation as well as making her feel multi-dimensional.
Simon Mattacks’ Daniel is an equally interesting creation, thrust back into a life of bedsits and confinement after the unexpected break-up of his marriage. Initially, Daniel is chatty and rambling in his desperation to speak to someone, but Mattacks also holds back some of the pain of Daniel’s life to build up to a credible reveal later in the performance.
Their eventual meeting could happen much quicker to alleviate some of the repetitive elements in the first half, and there’s scope to extend the long evening that Daniel and Ava spend together to unpick why they can talk so easily about their problems to a complete stranger rather than a family member, but the relationship between Daniel and Ava is believably charted.
Moments is an enjoyably sweet, appropriately cynical and sensitive tale about two people finding much-needed solace in the big city, and it may give you hope that your next great friendship could be sitting right beside you on the bus.
Runs until 27 August 2017 | Image: Contributed