Writer: David Wake
Director: Adam Grayson
Reviewer: Tracey Lowe
Nia has the phone numbers of over 300 unsuccessful suitors in her phone. She just wants to meet “Mr. Right” and have the perfect date. Her flatmate, Monica, suggests she takes an evening class in order to seek out a potential husband. With basket weaving completely booked up, she opts for a writing course. Pete, a struggling playwright, leads the course. Pete also happens to take an acting class with his friend Oliver, taught by Monica. In the pub following their first classes, Oliver recognises Nia from a previous encounter, and they somehow end up getting engaged. What follows is a show of misunderstandings and unlucky coincidences, as we follow the lives of these four hapless thirty-somethings.
The first half is extremely promising. The plot is well paced, the characters are funny, and the knowing references to acting and playwriting go down a treat. From the moment the doors are opened, the actors interact with the audience, which was not always successful. It alienated people from sitting at the front, and created a somewhat awkward atmosphere before the house lights even went down. However, this was quickly rectified, with a poor man from the front row being made a pariah within the first five minutes, which continued for the next two hours. There was also a lot of overlapping dialogue that worked surprisingly well, and wasn’t overused.
It was after the interval that things started to stagnate. At this point, it was clear where the story was heading, and it seemed to take a very long time to get there. With a lot of the pithy dialogue of the first half gone, the continuing self-referencing and theatre terminology seemed pompous, slightly elitist, and unnecessary. The almost constant debate about the merits of devised versus scripted theatre was initially a clever device to display character motivations, became very tiresome.
Luckily, the four-strong ensemble cast were extremely charming. Tim Sanderson was great as Oliver, the cheeky chap with a heart of gold. Ben Jewell portrayed tortured writer and teacher Pete very well, making a potentially dislikeable character very appealing. But it was the female actors that stole the show. Samantha Hopkins was perfect as the slightly quirky Monica, and her on-stage relationship with Charlotte Allmand’s Nia was genuinely believable. Allmand also displayed brilliant comic timing, as well as having great stage presence. This was a fantastic group of actors, who clearly work very well together.
The problem with this play it that it is just too long; there is simply not enough story to fill nearly two hours. The pace is so quick in the first hour that it cannot realistically be maintained following the interval. However, at its best ‘Lifelong Yearning’ is a funny, sweet play, full of likeable characters and some clever ideas.
Runs until 27th April