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August 18, 2011 | by  | in Theatre |
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It is New York in the 1930s. She’s rich, he’s poor, she lives off her parents, he writes and scrapes a living as a waiter. They meet on a jetty during one of her father’s parties and the chemistry of clashing opposites immediately ignites witty banter, sexual tension, and of course, forbidden love. It’s a story we’ve seen many times before in the vein of American screwball comedies, and we know how it ends.

Yet director Patrick Davies and the Glorious team make it an absolute pleasure to retread the formula. The increasingly prolific Anya Tate-Manning and Sam Bunkall as the fated lovers, Gloria and Jimmy, breathe fresh energy and compelling spontaneity into characters which, in the hands of less competent actors, may have appeared stereotyped. Gloria is the aloof funny-girl to Jimmy’s straight-man, and the actors easily find and exploit the comic friction – the play produces laughs consistently to the end. They are played with depth, too; Gloria’s airy unconcern and Jimmy’s introverted dryness are subtly revealed as defence mechanisms and probed in a well-gauged progression that keeps the play interesting and free of melodramatic revelation scenes. Despite the script’s template-predictability, Gloria’s often cruel flightiness and Jimmy’s helplessness had me questioning my confidence in the “inevitable” outcome – just enough, at least, to invest in their relationship and engage with the journey.

Patrick Davies has also taken over set design duties, which he executes with sparse simplicity. A sofa and writing desk create Jimmy’s apartment, surrounded by wooden boards to serve as the jetty. It’s not flashy, but perhaps reflects the director’s priorities for the character-focussed play. Lighting follows a similar philosophy, clearly delineating time of day and location and not much else. Having been baffled by the design of a few recent shows, this pragmatic approach suits me and
is wholly suited to the venue.

Richard Huber’s derivative script may receive some criticism but I wasn’t bothered. It’s well structured and the performances make it fresh – in a nostalgic kind of way. This is a great opportunity to see two very engaged actors enjoying themselves onstage. The Bats ticket prices are the icing on the cake.

By Richard Huber
16 – 27 August at BATS

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