How We Begin – VAULT Festival, London

Reviewer: Chris Lilly

Writer: Elisabeth Lewerenz

Director: Elizabeth Benbow

Some shows make the audience pay attention with ten tonnes of stage machinery and revolves and waterfalls, and pay not so much attention to the characters or the story or the words. How We Begin uses a thrust stage, a few throw cushions that actually get thrown, and lots of very very good writing. That’s it. That’s all it takes.

The story of two best friends who sort of accidentally discover they love each other, have a passionate and happy sexual affair, and then stop. Because the affair had run its course? Because they need to care for their other relationships? Because loving your friend and friending your friend at the same time is really tricky? No-one says anything up front; it isn’t a very declamatory show, but it makes sense, it seems true, it’s heart-breaking and it’s probably right that it ends. Sad, but right.

The show played at the King’s Head Theatre for a criminally short run in 2019, and has been developed since then, but it’s still taut and economical, and says all it needs to say in the 60-minute playing time. The original cast of Talia Pick and Emma Lucia is together again, and maybe they have greater empathy now. There is extraordinary understanding between the actors, an awareness of each other’s movements and physical presence, that is beautiful realised in a very intimate space.

This is a such a delicate piece of theatre. The two actors make not touching as momentous as touching, their movements around the narrow thrust stage are precise and vital and expressive. They finish each other’s sentences and share thoughts, and it is sensationally effective. They let the audience know them, and they are worth knowing.

Theatre doesn’t need killer spectacle. It needs brilliant writing, sensitive direction, and stellar performances. How We Begin delivers all that in abundance. After a four year lay-off the show is still true, just as moving, and there are more jokes. Win win.

Runs until 19 February 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

Honest, affecting, exquisite

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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