A play in two acts, Tryst is presented here without an interval, which works, because the tension doesn’t loosen, though some may argue a break could have been useful, such is the heavy atmosphere this production creates. But the 90-minute running time ensures the audience gets home at a reasonable time and came across as the right length for a two-hander of this nature.
George Love (Fred Perry), well-spoken and suave, turns the charm on Adelaide Pinchin (Natasha J Barnes), a backroom shop assistant. There are twists and turns in the story. Adelaide proves herself to be more streetwise and aware of what is really going on than George believes her to be, adding further suspense to how the plot will progress. Much of the audience found itself chuckling at some of George’s zanier assertions about his life and personal circumstances, with much justification. Lies are told, and further lies told after that to cover up holes in the narratives of the first set of lies. The relationship that suddenly blossoms is therefore unlikely and difficult to believe.
Aside from not being all that convincing plot-wise, the dynamics between the two shift continually, sometimes with subtlety, sometimes suddenly, and the balance of power quite commendably swings between them. The play has a traditional – yet unconventional – feel to it, as though it would be approved by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office if it still functioned as theatre censor. Nothing happens to any children or animals, for instance, simply because there are neither children nor animals on stage. Adelaide condemns the use of what she believes to be a swear word, though I hasten to add that not everything in the script is in keeping with the early twentieth century.
Barnes puts in a tour de force performance, an incredible stage presence and a nuanced portrayal of a character who, like so many people, wants a richer (in more ways than one) and more successful life than the one she currently lives. A question, “What do you think?” is repeated and repeated, but each time with a slight but sufficiently distinct shift in tone. It is something of an indictment of our times that people like George would, in all likelihood, be able to behave (broadly) similarly over a century after the events of this play.
The costumes (Megan Rarity) are suitable for the period and do well to further define both characters. There’s even a metaphor in Adelaide getting into a bath and in that moment being most vulnerable in a state of undress. A large range of human emotions from euphoria to sheer anger is displayed by the end of the show. Love and power, and the power of love, are the key themes here.
Does the epilogue, in the form of large text displayed on the stage’s back wall, reveal too much? It certainly seemed to provoke much post-show discussion, including fact checking on smartphones. It’s almost needless to say, but that sort of thing doesn’t happen very often and is a testament to this production’s captivating and compelling nature.
Review by Chris Omawen
Based on a true story, this tense drama tells of serial fraudster, George Love, who encounters a naïve and vulnerable shop-girl, Adelaide Pinchin. Seduced by his charm and elaborate stories of a life she’s never known, Adelaide agrees to run away with him in a secret tryst. What follows shocks them both as their plans begin to unravel in frightening and unpredictable ways.
The story begins as a romantic drama but soon evolves into a riveting thriller with a startling climax.
Natasha J Barnes as Adelaide
Fred Perry as George
Directed by Phoebe Barran
Designer Max Dorey
Lighting Designer Matt Drury
Sound Designer Dave McSeveny
2 Bath Rd,
London W4 1LW