Midland Hotel, Manchester
Slowly, Vignettes is Kevin Cuffe's first produced play and his is clearly a talent to note. Bessie and Frank are a couple who are stuck together and unable to leave an odd room which contains a French Guillotine. They reminisce and bicker as a way of passing the time. Bessie is optimistic and patient while Frank is pessimistic and a worrier. This tension provokes much laughter as the two spar over the course of an hour. The stories they tell each other about their early life and secret passions may or, conversely, may not be true. There is much ambiguity in the set up and how realistic the setting is meant to be is successfully obscured.
Sue McCormick as Bessie displays skilful comic timing. For example when she gives a delicious pause on berating Frank that he had fire in his belly or somewhere. There is much clever use of innuendo between the two. Robert Maxfield has the more difficult part. He achieves the right blend of pathos and irritability and is a perfect foil to Sue McCormick who has more of the humour to play.
The set is pretty sparse. An easy chair and a hard chair. The Guillotine is genuinely menacing and its use is a source of dramatic tension. Director Chris Bridgeman has drawn nuanced performances and the pacing is well managed throughout. The difficulties of passing your life together when you are polar opposites are exquisitely observed and the piece is strangely and unexpectedly moving. Recommended.
The play continues until the end of the week at the Midland Hotel in Manchester.
Reviewer: Andrew Edwards