Sunday, 9 February 2020

REVIEW: Time and Tide at the Park Theatre

"Time and Tide wait for no man" is a quote from a Geoffrey Chaucer tale, meaning that people can't stop the passing of time and should not delay doing things. It is a perfect title for this charming exquisitely written play which explores with a gentle humorous caring touch the lives of four people stuck in their daily lives in a cafe on Cromer pier in Norfolk. They bottle up their emotions and true feelings as they go about their usual routines until one of them decides to leave for college in London. James McDermott, the author, draws heavily on his own experience in a Norfolk cafe and the conversations he overheard as he started his career as a writer after university. The result is the creation of four totally believable, emotionally engaging and brilliantly crafted characters and a simple plot dynamic that touchingly explores and reveals their true feelings and motivations. It is an extraordinarily good piece of writing.

The excellent cast of four rise to the challenge of bringing it to the intimate Park 90 stage with great skill. Director Rob Ellis ensures the action is carefully paced, taking its time to establish the characters and then explodes into moments of wonderful theatre as the true feelings spill out over the Cafe Floor. 

May (played with a delightful light but very human touch by Wendy Nottingham) is the fifty-something cafe owner who has run the place for years while caring for her recently deceased mother. She is a dreamer, longing for the dance career that never was while serving her customers who "know of her, but don't know her". As big business moves in and habits change the cafe is struggling and she has decided to put it up for sale. She is served by her daily deliveries of bread products by Ken, (the awkward but funny Paul Easom) who also sees his business declining as his regular customers fold. He hilariously describes his daily delivery routine supplying local cafes "Deja Brew", "Thanks a Latte" and " Brew HaHa". As he says often "you cut me open, I bleed yeast". 

May has been mentoring young Nemo ( a wonderfully nuanced performance from Josh Barrow) and encouraged him to go to college in London to be the next Dame Judy. The play is set on the day of his departure but his best friend did not turn up for the previous night's leaving do so when Daz, " I only watch porn", (played by Elliot Liburd ) arrives for his shift in the cafe, it is awkward and tensions rise. Daz has always been there for Nemo.

It is amazing that there is such a good balance between all four characters, all harbour suppressed feelings that are gently teased out provoking the audience to wonder whether the characters will decide to move on differently or allow time and the world to pass them by. 

The set design by Caitlin Abbott is perfect evoking a faded glories feel with old
variety posters, pictures of Bette Davies and lots of authentic-looking details including a full range of sandwiches! Together with a soundtrack of waves, vehicles and a thunderstorm, it creates a strong sense of the location reinforcing the feeling of passing time. The gentle slow-moving opening scene with May preparing the cafe for the day while listening to New York, New York establishes the tone and theme without words.

In my view this is one of the best pieces of new writing I have seen in the last few years fully deserving its nominations for prizes and although it sensitively focuses on LGBT themes it resonates with us all in thinking about our human relationships and the how we share our innermost feelings and recognise when to move on.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: unreserved, stalls | Price of Ticket: £18
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