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Review: While We're Here, Bush Theatre Studio

Tessa Peake-Jones and Andrew French in While We're Here at thenew Bush Studio. Credit Mark Douet
Tessa Peake-Jones and Andrew French in While We're Here at thenew Bush Studio. Photo: Mark Douet

Carol (Tessa Peake-Jones) is making up the sofa in her Havant home for Eddie (Andrew French) to sleep on. A chance meeting has thrown the former lovers together; they've not seen each other for 20 years and he's got no where to stay. She's happy to help, happy to have the company as her daughter has moved out. Eddie babbles with nerves and Carol is awkwardly sweet, something has been kindled.

There is a lot of humour in their chit chat as they share their views on TV, the local area and news stories but that chat is pregnant with their own philosophy, how they attempt to rationalise and organise their lives to get through. As the two get re-acquainted we learn of Eddie's struggles with mental health and Carol's loneliness and sense of regret.

At times they are on the same page, leaping on those moments of understanding while at others they are worlds apart. Both have built their own safety nets, Eddie keeps moving while Carol stays still making few changes. Eddie returning to her life ignites a spark that might break her out of the shell, seduced as she is by the potential rekindling of their romance. Eddie, however, is driven by a bleakly fatalistic outlook, believing happiness is transitory and consequently fearful of what he sees as the inevitable end.

Barney Norris's play While We're Here is the inaugural production at the Bush Theatre's new studio space and through the lives of two ordinary people he examines loneliness and regret and whether you can recreate the past. Where the play flies is when Carol and Eddie are just chatting about ordinary stuff, it is well-observed and with some laugh out loud lines - Tessa Peake-Jones is particularly adept at drawing out the wit and humour. 

However, at times Andrew French's Eddie can feel a little over-egged which detracts from the subtleties of the text and, given the subject matter, the play doesn't always managed to get proper emotional purchase. It is a piece that holds promise for the future and I'm sure Barney Norris will go from strength to strength. I'm giving it three and a half stars. It's 70 minutes without an interval and is at the Bush Theatre Studio until 27 May.