Between Us

Sarah Daniels

Arcola Theatre

From 28 May 2014 to 21 June 2014

Review by Howard Loxton

Sarah Daniels new play, here getting its world première, presents a woman psychiatrist who is trying her hand at stand-up.

Interspersed with her act are therapy sessions with two of her patients and some encounters of her own. It lasts only 75 minutes but it is beautifully written and has as much in it as many plays twice its length.

With her lead-in music, George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun”, Charlotte Cornwell’s Julia launches into a very site-specific spiel about coming to E8 and the price of the ticket. She is sick of sitting there listening to others in her consulting room; this is a chance for her to talk.

It may be her debut as a stand-up, but Julia knows how to handle an audience and radiates confidence—at least on the surface. That is not so surprising perhaps when we discover that before she took up psychotherapy she used to be an actress and, of course, that is not all that we learn about her.

This is an accomplished and compelling performance from Cornwell that makes you eager for her return after every exit, but that is not to detract from the other performers. Their monologues feel like conversations and they explore the clues in Daniels’s script to create rounded characters unburdening themselves on the metaphorical couch.

Callum Dixon is Dave, a builder with a baby daughter and a guilty back-story from the days when his parents scraped the money together to send him to public school, alienating him from his old mates. Georgina Rich is Teresa, a well-off wife who, left having babies too late, now has a traumatic time with two adopted children. She also plays Kath who, in an intriguing twist, is briefly reunited with Julia after long separation.

Daniels covers a lot of ground but not superficially: she digs deep. Do we stay responsible for youthful behaviour? How do we juggle life’s priorities? Accepting responsibility when you have or take on children. Is therapy just about making you feel good about yourself, those sessions with the therapist to "bring on the sun" and shine a positive light on guilt and error?

Simply staged in Simon Daws’s setting of little more than a chair against a brick wall, John Burgess’s production balances poignancy with humour, its action concentrated on the individual performer.

Between Us left me wanting more but not dissatisfied: it compacts so much in its brief timespan and is perfectly cast.