Monday, 7 March 2016

Review: Tomorrow, Above the Arts

"Nothing that bad is going to happen tonight"

They say you should never go back but sometimes it's just too hard to resist. I really enjoyed Samuel Evans' Tomorrow when it played at the White Bear Theatre last year (review here) and so was pleased to hear that it was receiving a new run in the studio of Above the Arts Theatre. The play has been revamped and rejigged, and mostly recast (oddly enough, I just saw Natey Jones - who starred last time round - this weekend in Don Quixote for the RSC!) for this production and so I was intrigued to see how it would fare on this second viewing.

And I think it holds up well. Evans' dystopian set-up suggests some kind of sci-fi epic but what we actually get is something powerfully, domestically, intimate. The world is on the precipice of something momentous as in the midst of apocalyptic happenings, including the sudden death of David Cameron, a "perfect tomorrow" has been predicted, when all will change - though no-one knows exactly how. And to celebrate, Clive has decide to host a party in his Elephant & Castle tower block flat, he's even bought in some of those breaded prawns that everyone loves.

But Clive hasn't left the flat in three years. And the first guy to turn up is Billy, someone he doesn't know, though he finds him vaguely familiar. And though he's pleased his friend Norah has turned up, her mouthy boyfriend Wayne isn't too far behind and he's the last person Clive wants at his shindig. And so what actually emerges from Evans' writing is a study of relationships through the prism of mental health issues, how they are shaped at times of great stress, and how society defaults to a position of self-delusionary positive thinking instead of meeting a challenge head-on.

The unraked space in this theatre isn't always the most forgiving and Rebecca Hewett's direction could usefully do a little more to encourage a more inclusive sense of intimacy to some of the scenes but her cast do do good work - Aaron Gordon captures all the nervy intensity of Clive, almost fizzing over with energy he doesn't know how to expend and returning from the original production, Niall McNamee's Billy is achingly moving, the key scene that they share together remaining a beautiful thing indeed.

Ruby Wild's Norah is an interesting character, ensnared in the bad boy charms of Danny Devall's turbulent Wayne, but Hussina Raja as her friend Lisa (the one character to be substantially changed if I recall correctly) doesn't have enough to do, this underdeveloped role a rare weak point. Still, Tomorrow remains a strong piece of new writing from Whistlestop Theatre, and I'm calling Samuel Evans now as a name to look out for in the future, well tomorrow is another day after all.

Running time: 70 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 12th March


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