If the North/South divide could not have been less subtle in Different Class, any other variations between Maria (Harriet Grenville) and Andy (Duncan Mason) are comparatively negligible in a steadily-paced but nonetheless intriguing survey into contemporary living and life’s priorities. I realise I am making this play sound drier and more indifferent than it really is – although it is entirely set in one room, a lot of ground is covered in this two-hander single-act play, with a number of off-stage characters brought into the narrative to add depth to the dialogue.
There are many plays with music that can’t really be classed as musicals, but it is rare to come across one such as this that has a noticeable amount of choreography to go with it. A sense of irony pervades the room as Maria digs into Andy for being allegedly old-fashioned, or even just old(er), but it is she who turns on the stereo and encourages him to get up and dance in the middle of the living room, as though this were an Eighties house party.
If Andy begins by being slightly aloof, there’s a warmer side to him that slowly comes through, and there isn’t, as far as I could deduce, any sort of single ‘critical incident’ that brings everything crashing down so suddenly. For that alone this new play should be applauded for not following what seems to be a pervasive trend in contemporary theatre. Both characters are portrayed convincingly, and there is never a moment when the plot becomes unfeasible.
There is such a thing as trying to cram too much in, however, and in a dialogue that one minute sees Andy putting the world to rights and the next attempting a stand-up routine (which doesn’t quite hit the mark, but that is very deliberately so for the play’s own purposes), it comes across as meandering and unfocused. I am not sure, either, what the play hoped to achieve by criticising almost everything under the sun, from public relations firms (almost always a sensitive subject to put in a theatre production, and with some justification) to BBC Television’s Live at the Apollo. It is, unfortunately, a rather flimsy attempt at moralising.
It is strongly acted, however, even if much of what goes on is ultimately inconsequential. Two people who have been friends for some years but have not seen each other for a while until this day, catch up on a wide range of subjects and then part company, until the next time, whenever that may be. Mildly amusing in its exploration of what living life to the full really means, the play’s ending, though emotional, was entirely predictable. It is too harsh to say that the play is hoisted by its own petard, but in its criticism of mainstream television comedy as being ‘too safe’, though same words are an apt description of this production. Still, there are elements of brilliance, and both actors punch above the plotline’s weight.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Maria is from a lovely little town in Berkshire. Andy is from the north. They pretend they don’t get on. But really they do. They have plenty to say for themselves, and to each other. But perhaps it’s the things they can’t say which trouble them the most.
Running time approx. 60 mins
About the writer
Kevin Lee is a playwright from Sydenham in South East London and is the author of the critically acclaimed ‘Time for Heroes’ (Barons Court Theatre), which earned rave reviews last year.
Writer / Director: Kevin Lee
Cast: Harriet Grenville and Duncan Mason
Lighting: Hannah Fisher
Assistant director: Justine Lee