Last night i attended the Tristan Bates theatre in London to see Time. A play written by Michael Head of whom i have seen previous plays ‘A greater game’ and ‘Worth a Flutter’ which were emotive and relatable so i was looking forward to seeing this.
The Tristan Bates theatre is an intimate theatre meaning you are up close and personal with the cast and the scenery which ensures your attention is always on those in front of you.
Time is a play about four robbers who reconnect after being stored up in seperate safe houses for six months after a job goes wrong. Gathering around a pub table we hear of stories, accusations and personal traumas that each carry.
Slipps (Michael Head) named mostly for his ability to evade prison (as well as managing to slip out of buying a round) is the first to arrive in his self owned pub, aptly named ‘The end of the world’ whom takes his whiskey in hand and takes a moment to look over the family pictures on the wall of the pub. We are plunged into darkness and hear sirens, shouting and gun shots. Slips recalling the start of this journey six months prior. The Gun was meant to be for show, but Prozac only went and used it, sending the plan out of the window.
Waldorf (David Schaal) is the second to arrive shortly after, an old school gangster who had a code and had experience of working for the big gangs of the sixties. Both share a catch up about family and continue to reminisce across the family pictures across the pub wall, joking about the framed banning orders from Morrisons that his aunt had proudly received.
Fisherman (Daniel O’Reilly) turns up late, looking dapper in his fitted black suit. A little cocky but obviously a smart guy he is quick to start the jokes, he also is quick to call out the missing Prozac and for whom he blamed for the whole robbery going wrong. Finally and expectedly late is prozac (Paul Danan) named for his addiction to pain killers and every drug available, turns up in a nervous state. Having to quickly defend himself against the reasons why the job went south and nearer the end of how he got away.
With more whiskey being poured and guidance from Slips accusations quickly die down and this leads to the four sharing experiences and stories of how they met, being banged up for crimes they didn’t do and getting away with ones that they did. Talk of how prison – the place the were to be punished and reformed turned out to be the place of which they met most of their contacts screams irony. Leading to new jobs and friendships.
Amongst the stories Fisherman drops the cocaine on the table and all four indulge in a few lines to keep them going. As the whiskey is topped up and the drinks flow conversation drops back to the job, and why it went wrong. Directed at Prozac of whom Waldorf and Fisherman don’t seem too have much trust for he is left defending himself insisting that it was him who was shot at first and in a panic shot back. Letting out his feelings it seems like he has been carrying this burden and its consequence since it happened and hasn’t been able to let go which leads to talk of family.
Seemingly each one has a reason for doing the job and each want to move on and make changes. Each also tell us of there reasons for their choice of safe house. Fisherman reveals some personal trauma from a time past and Slips tells us of his love for his two children. This reminds us that these robbers are regular people with hopes, issues and dreams of their own. Born into or introduced to crime there is more to them than their actions.
Head then drops a bombshell moment into this play that turns it on his head and one that i didn’t see coming. It makes you evaluate everything you have seen and is an excellent twist to the story. Was this to be as the pub was named ‘The end of the world?’ and as referenced as Johnny Cash sang ‘I fought the Law…but in this case did the law win?’
Head has an amazing writing ability to pull you in and makes you feel like you are at the table with them. The conversation flows, highs, lows and laughs. It reminds me of being in my local around the table with my mates sharing moments and memories. Within this play he is also the cockney voice from South London, his character givings us a devotion for family, he is the more rational of the four, seemingly quicker to assess situations and not jump into them.
Casted superbly, Paul Danan who has previously worked with Head, portrays this nervous reck brilliantly, a loose cannon of the group with his slightly oversized suit on, never fully trusted he does his best to be involved, he shows emotion, intrigue and a desperation. Daniel O’Reilly in his stage debut is everything his character is meant to be. He comes across confident, even a little cocky and carrying a deep hurt he like most men buries it with bravado, he brings the humour and banter to this group well and i hope to see more stage work from Daniel.
David Schaal excellent as the elder statesmen of this crew. Measured and forthright, bound by codes and gentlemanly rules portrays a time of when gangs only hurt those who deserved it. Ensuring loyalty. The cast appear to have a bond that is real and a genuine friendship that shows across the table pulling you in from the start. Coming from a background that had military in it i full well believe David would of been brought up with a certain set of rules and codes himself albeit maybe more legal.
I am yet to be dissapointed by Michael Heads writing and increasingly becoming more and more of a fan and find his plays captivating and relatable. Whilst i wasn’t as personally touched in this as i was his previous play ‘A Greater Game’, I was entertained and made to laugh, i was immersed into the room, believing in each character and stunned at the twist that came. I’m also intrigued about the life and experiences of his family of which is of inspiration to his plays.
There are limited tickets left for this show running until saturday and i’d urge you to grab one if you can. Click the link for details: https://www.actorscentre.co.uk/theatre/time
Thanks for reading my review of Time.
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