Wasn't that taken with the last Robert Holman play I saw, or rather trio of short plays, under the heading Making Noise Quietly. Hadn't drawn the connection with Jonah and Otto which may have been a good thing because there was something infinitely more compelling about this new work.
As the title suggests its a two-hander Jonah (Alex Waldmann) and Otto (Peter Egan) are two strangers who end up spending a day together where they argue, debate and reveal information about themselves.
Jonah has aggressive outbursts, can do magic tricks and is light fingered in other ways too. He has his baby daughter in tow, in shopping trolley which doubles as a make-shift pram. Otto is a clergyman but doesn't believe in God, has a wife and grown up children who patronise him. He also has penchant for pretty women.
Holman doesn't give you solid answers, it could simply be the literal meeting of two people who learn from each other and in doing so learn about themselves.
It is difficult to explain what is quite so compelling about this piece. It has a crudeness and a poetry, humanity and deep emotion that washes over you like the waves at the seaside town in which it is set and is yet quietly affecting. Jonah and Otto seem to peer into each others souls. There is no need for a lavish set or countless props just a paving slab stage, a bench for a while and a bit of blue sky and clouds; the visual feast is in the delicately balanced performances*.
Jonah and Otto is on at the Park Theatre until November 23 and was two hours and 15 minutes when I saw it in last preview, a bit longer than the advertised time..
* Extra credit must go to Alex Waldmann and Peter Egan for unflinchingly soldiering on despite various interruptions by the audience. The most bizarre series of interruptions I've ever encountered in the theatre. First there was the woman with the child-laughing ring tone who decided to make a dash for the exit with her 'ringing' handbag rather than just switch it off. This was five minutes in and after a request to switch all mobiles off.
Then there was the woman who inadvertently ended up walking into the theatre but rather than sneak back out so that very few wouldn't notice said "sorry" loudly before leaving so that the entire theatre heard.
Finally, and my favourite, was the woman with a bad cold who sniffed and coughed her way through the first half while sighing and moaning and muttering odd comments. I saw an usher having words at the interval and she wasn't back in the second half. The Park Theatre is small so virtually the entire audience as well as the actors could hear her.
On Twitter @mildlybitter suggested an audience interruption bingo game, I think that would have been a prize winning performance.