What Happens To The Hope At The End Of The Evening
Tim Crouch and Andy Smith
Contact Theatre, Manchester
This latest piece from Tim Crouch sees him taking a more subordinate role than usual, as Andy Smith is the storyteller and Crouch is simply playing a character in his story.
But with Crouch, nothing is ever simple. He stands staring at Smith, who sits behind a music stand reading his story from a script, telling us about taking his PhD at Lancaster University and quoting from academic theatre books throughout the play.
Crouch comes into the story as Smith's friend for the past thirty years with whom he has lost touch since getting married to his Norwegian wife and starting a family. Crouch, however, doesn't appear to have changed or to have made much of a success of his life. Crouch is still attending anti-faschist rallies, whereas Smith has a house full of Scandinavian furniture and a "child on board" sticker in his car.
There are awkward moments between them and moments of real affection, and it is all told with a great deal of humour. Smith always addresses the audience, even with the exchanges of dialogue, whereas Crouch addresses Smith directly in the scenes.
In fact the audience is involved right through the piece, as the house lights are left up and we are asked to greet one another and even to take our shoes off as a Norwegian courtesy.
The overt theatricality extends to Crouch slowly and silently building Smith's living room by placing furniture on very obvious tape marks on the floor, and to Crouch cautiously taking over as narrator for the closing minutes.
On the surface, this is a casual reunion between two people who have grown apart, but there are suggestions of other differences in attitudes between them. Crouch is still confrontational, marching for what he believes in, whereas Smith is happy to let things take their own course; these attitudes extend to their views of the young people congregating outside.
On first viewing, there isn't perhaps the same depth as some of Crouch's previous work, but there is plenty that stays with you to keep you thinking long after the play has finished. This is also the funniest performance I have seen him give, as he creates a great character with lots of comic potential.
Another fascinating and unusual kind of performance from this unique performer whose productions are always worth seeing, and one with, perhaps, more laughs than in most of his previous work.
Reviewer: David Chadderton