With a black table, four stools, and two bottles – one of Haig Club Whisky and the other Baileys – the spartan set of Issy Snape’s Corpus Playroom Harrogate is the ideal place for an interrogation. This triptych (three-act) two-hander is a remarkable feat of endurance for this pair of performers – George Solomou’s ‘Him’ and Anna Wright’s ‘Her’ put a man’s love for his 15-year old daughter through the wringer: it’s darkly but not mercilessly comic in some moments, and brutally forensic in others.
Don’t go expecting blockbuster effects, since the uneasy dialogue fits the limited confines of the playroom excellently. Both performances are accomplished individually; where Hers is many-sided, fretful and outgoing, His is stable, brooding and even obsessively internal. As She comes and goes, changing, He remains – Her words dig uncomfortably at His troubled mind. More importantly than this however, the pairing is accomplished – eye contact is key to their interactions, pivoting from staring contests to flustered separation, and from shock to fear to longing – all made deliberate, visible and meaningful.
Just as their eyes search the room, or each other, the play’s atmosphere can move from flirtatious to frank, and switch between playful and genuinely fearful. The range here demands a strong performance, and Solomou and Wright deliver it. Silences – a key part of any conversation – held us rapt as an audience, and the task of eliciting laughs during some fairly tense exchanges was met with a great reaction.
The staging and lighting are unremarkable, but fit for purpose. A few strips of wavy polymer drape the walls, and there are less than a dozen noticeable moments of sound or lighting design during the show. But none of this detracts from the interpersonal heart of the production, and audio and lighting cues ran to time, without a hitch.
Though ‘Her’ tells us, from her knowledge of GCSE Geography, that earthquakes will ‘fuck you up properly’, it’s so easy to move across to English and hear the echo of Larkin: ‘They fuck you up, your mum and dad.’
The script hits hard when it comes to troubled parenting, and this well-managed, well-acted, well-directed and compact performance allows it to do so.
No play is without flaw, and no star rating without inaccuracy, but this one definitely rounds up to Five.