"A night of intense drama"
by Patrick Cunningham for remotegoat on 13/01/12

Though lengthy, the two plays from award-winning writer Nicola Schofield provided a realistic view into the relationships between friends, family and lovers in two very different circumstances and times.

'Hope in Boxes', a naturalistic, eye-opening piece about the pressures of war and the strong social constructs of the early 1940s, contrasted with the present day, was a subtle but fitting contrast to the second piece of the night, 'A Light in Every Window', a piece about a group of friends dealing with trauma and relationships. Direction from Gayle Hare was precise and thorough, and the set - though mostly comprising of just cardboard boxes - worked extremely well being re-used and modified for each piece.

Time did not take linear form in either piece, Schofield opting for the much more stylised intertwining of the past and present in each piece. This was no easy task, and the subtle differences of lighting, costume and set worked perfectly to portray the difference in time. For 'Hope in Boxes' in particular, the use of both up and down stage simultaneously; and the authentic costumes gave a nice clear divide between past and present: whereas in 'A Light in Every Window', the seamless switch between 'then' and 'now' contributed to the audience's sharing in the memories of the protagonist, Tracy (Samantha Vaughan). The fact that both stories past and present were played out in the same space added to the idea that the two times and stories were linked so closely - as they are.

Performances overall were very good, the multi-role showcasing the actors' talents perfectly - especially Phil Minns (Peter/Paul) who capably switched between two very contrasting characters in each piece with amazing ease, and played a very convincing 'Mr Fielding'. Julie Burrow gave a pleasing Ada in 'Hope in Boxes', and Lee Joseph showed believable and clearly differing parts. Lewis Marsh handled the characters of Tony and Dave very competently - Dave in particular being a challenging, drunken individual whilst Samantha Vaughan (Lisa/Sadie/Tracy) also gave able performances. The tensions and complexities of relationships were portrayed brilliantly - in particular the sexual tensions between the lead roles.

Poignant endings to both plays left the audience with enough intrigue to wonder what happened next, but were clear and decisive enough to be definite also. The very competent writing coupled with five solid performances made for an evening of very intense, naturalistic theatre. The sprinklings of wit were welcomed as they gave a much more real feel to the characters, and the humour's absence at moments intensified the severity of serious situations. Each piece, though not 'full-length' individually, delved into the depths of big issues such as homosexuality and suicide, guiding the audience with them at every point.

Though somewhat lacking pace at times, the duration of the plays did not detract from the 'carpe diem' message of both pieces, which overall were very naturalistic and believable, credit to the creative team - Schofield in particular.

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