First visit to the lovely little Bush Theatre where it's so small that I could see, clear as day, the shock on the face of the elderly lady sat on the opposite side of the stage when one of the characters asked another: "Did you finger her pussy?"
And what makes it all the more special is to see actors such as Mackenzie Crook (in vain hope I scanned the audience for his pal Johnny D) and Ralph 'Anthony Royle' Little so close, they are a step away from sitting on your lap.
It is also great to see such a small space turned over so thoroughly to the plays setting: a cafe's back yard complete with gravel, wheelie bins, graffiti-decorated corrugated fencing and grill covered back door.
The rest of the stage setting is simple, a couple of beat up chairs and a pile of crates that doubles as a table.
So all the ingredients were there it just needed a fine play to turn it into something tasty. And it is a fine play, well the second half is. The first half establishes Jasper (Crook) and KJ (Little) as a couple of slackers or layabouts as the elderly lady would have probably called them. They spend their time hanging out at the back of the cafe, talking about a bit of this and that namely poetry, Jasper's ex and the novel he's writing and gently teasing, the impressionable 17-year old Evan who has just started working at the cafe.
It is all convincingly performed and amusing but as the lights turned the theatre to black to signal the interval I couldn't help wondering where it was all leading.
Thank heavens then for the second half, and one scene in particular that seems to parachute in from no where and is the secret ingredient that just elevate the whole thing.
I can't tell you what happens as it would just spoil it except that it is moving and reveals a lot about the characters and what they mean to each other. It lifts it from a three out of five to nearly a four out of five.
The play is still in preview and reviews and their ratings will be aggregated over at UpTheWestEnd.com
Easy as pie because young Olly Alexander, who plays Evan, lists Bright Star in his credits although I can't for the life of me think of who he played. He did a sterling job though as it must be intimidating for an actor of his age not only to be alongside such well known names but also in space where the audience can see your hands shaking.
PS @polyg described Mackenzie Crook as making Ben look fat. And I agree, he needs feeding a slice or two one of Stan's infamous baked delights.
* The theatre emailed to warn that there would be strong language and smoking. There was a quite a bit of smoking, in fact I smelt Jasper's cigarette before I saw him appear.
Here are those production photo's again just in case you missed them on the previous post: