Michael Frayn Studio, Hampstead Theatre
Pentabus Theatre have wisely decided that For Once, set in the kitchen, is far better housed in Hampstead's Michael Frayn Studio, more normally used as a rehearsal space, than the main theatre.
In doing so, they have ensured the kind of intimacy that is necessary for a work with only three actors and minimal action.
Welsh playwright Tim Price's drama takes place in a small market town close to the company's home base at Ludlow in Shropshire. Initially, the trio have a little of the quality of stand-up comedians as they talk about the banalities of everyday life in a series of short monologues with almost no interaction between them.
As this goes on, Geraldine Alexander's April steadily works through a pile of ironing while her husband Gordon (Patrick Driver) sits at the kitchen table or manufactures a sandwich. Their teenaged son Sid, played by Jonathan Smith, also buries himself the minutiae, fiddling around with cold drinks and cups of tea.
It seems inevitable that this hour-long story will have some hidden family skeletons to reveal and very gradually, we discover why Sid has one blind eye and his parents are jumpy.
Sid had been part of a happy quartet of ordinary lads who did everything together. That included driving around town, whether joyriding or not is never explained, until a fatal crash left him short of an eye and his friends short of their lives.
We immediately begin to look at the family differently, quickly understanding the stresses and strains that they are under. However, there is more to Price's debut play than this single event. Timelines are deliberately muddied so what appeared to be reactions to the accident are sometimes actions that took place before it.
Therefore, while it appeared that the impending family crisis was engendered entirely by tragedy, Gordon's liking for nights away from home is not as simple as he tries to make out, while long-suffering April may finally be prepared to put her foot down.
For Once is a well written, small-scale play that receives a high quality production under the direction of the company's artistic director, Orla O'Loughlin. She draws strong performances from all three actors in a play that is due to tour the country in association with Sherman Cymru and will undoubtedly find a place in viewers' hearts and put tears into their eyes.
Playing until 30 July
Reviewer: Philip Fisher