In this sweet tragicomedy, excellent physical theatre and witty storytelling combine in an astonishingly powerful production from Hot Tubs and Trampolines, all set in a lost property office. Bar some inconsistencies, this is a truly wonderful show – and well worth the trip to Chiswick! At the Tabard Theatre.
Please Wait Patiently places us in the lost property office for the London Underground, where Sam and Steph dance around each, getting more and more emotionally entangled as they read through the letters between Alice and Joel, a couple from the 1950s, whose letters are dropped off in a suitcase. As Sam and Steph get closer and Alice and Joel slide further and further apart, we’re left with an intimate portrait of real-life romance.
Unusual as it is for me to start with such a personal response, I was completely blown away by this show. It does take a bit to get started, but when the interplay between the four leads settles down and the story starts to get up some rhythm, it’s really spell-binding stuff. Natasha Collie’s writing is witty, bouncy and enjoyable – although some of the dialogue could do with some sharpening, including some one-liners that fall flat, and I’m not convinced that young people in the 50s would have had such a modern vernacular – but her grasp of story is wonderful. Tentatively balancing two romantic entanglements without losing sight of either is no mean feat, and it is wonderfully accomplished stuff from a young writer who, there’s no question, will go on to even greater things.
It helps that this is all dramatised by a company as exciting as Hot Tubs and Trampolines – their physical theatre work energises the whole piece, with frequent throwing, catching and lifting sequences dramatising the shift between time frames or working as a passage-of-time indicator – either way, it’s a wonderful use of an office full of lost property, allowing for the inventive use of any number of props. It’s clever stuff, vital and vibrant, and hats off to Matt Harrison for his direction (as well as a couple of minor acting turns, which he also accomplishes well).
The cast also deserve praise for this, ably taking part in all of the physical pieces whilst also engaging with each other – a rocky start meant that it took a little while to get going, but once in the flow of things all four leads had their moments. Tom Turner does ably as the slightly gruff and emotionally withdrawn Sam, while Rachel Chambers walks a rather fine line between emotional and rebellious with endearing ease. Max Wilson and Chloe Nicholson also impress as Joel and Alice, with both delivering emotionally powerful performances.
This feels less like a smaller fringe piece and more like the beginnings of something really rather special – there are a couple of holes in the script (such as why the 1950s couple, now living together, are still writing each other letters), and I’m not a fan of the title (which makes the piece sound like a bad sit-com rip-off, which it is anything but), but these don’t detract from the sublime watchability of strong physical theatre in a cracking script. This is a company, a writer and a show worth championing, and the kind of thing more new writing venues should be producing; if you’re not at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, you must see this play.