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Same Time, Next Year at Devonshire Park Theatre | Review

Bernard Slade, who wrote the two-hander Same Time, Next Year, was a Canadian writer who specialised in American sit-coms such as The Flying Nun, The Partridge Family and Bewitched, penning Same Time, Next Year in 1975 when it was so successful that it became a Hollywood film starring Alan Alda in 1978. The original London production starred Michael Crawford and Frances Kuka.

Same Time Next Year - Kieran Buckeridge as George, Sarah Kempton as Doris - Photo by Sheila Burnett.
Same Time Next Year – Kieran Buckeridge as George, Sarah Kempton as Doris – Photo by Sheila Burnett.

Doris and George meet in 1951, a chance encounter in a Californian hotel that leads to a passionate night. Both are married – to other people – but agree to meet exactly twelve months later. So begins a romantic love affair that lasts 25 years, the play charting their lives through the ups and downs of parenthood, career, fashions and morals.

The play seems not to have dated at all, especially as performed at Eastbourne to an enthusiastic, welcoming, audience by London Classic Theatre. Slade paints a nostalgic and at times very funny portrait (I am still smiling at the ‘cab driver’ line as I write this) of two likeable protagonists who, once a year, find themselves in this most unusual of relationships.

Doris is very believably played by Sarah Kempton, who has cleverly been given a series of wigs and quick-change costumes (Bek Palmer) to swiftly indicate to the audience the passing of time. She is always watchable and takes the play at the ‘sit-com’ style pace that the author intended.

Kieran Buckeridge is George: gangly youthful at first, yet gradually maturing by subtle use of physicality and the way he uses the language, for example his extended telephone call in Act Two which is one of the many highlights of the evening. Together he and Kempton are superb, sparring off each other all the time, just like a real-life married couple. They are very amusing, and often poignant and moving.

The simple but effective set, again designed by Bek Palmer is ideal for touring, even if the USL door appeared difficult to open and close. The lighting is designed by Matthew Green: a shame that the sofa DSL, which was used a lot, was in shadow, whereas one of the black borders was brightly illuminated!

Director Michael Cabot should be very pleased with his timely revival of this play. It may only have two actors, but there is never a dull moment, Cabot sending them spinning through the 120 minute running time with laughs a- plenty. Strongly recommended if you can get to Eastbourne this week, or to The New Vic Newcastle Under Lyme, next, where it will presumably be played ‘in-the-round’.

The original New York Times critic, Clive Barnes, said of this play: “Do not put off till tomorrow what you can do today. Get tickets for “Same Time Next Year”….it’s the funniest comedy…..in years”. Who am I to disagree?

4 stars

Review by John Groves

Doris and George meet in 1951, a chance encounter in a Californian hotel that leads to a passionate one-night stand. Both are married to other people but, soon aware that this might be the start of something, they promise to meet 12 months later. So begins a romantic love affair that lasts 25 years.

The play charts their lives through the ups and downs of parenthood, career highs and lows as well as the shifting fashions and morals of the passing decades.

Bernard Slade paints a bittersweet, nostalgic and very funny portrait of two likeable protagonists who find themselves in the most unusual of long-term relationships.

One of the world’s most widely staged plays, Same Time, Next Year was originally produced on Broadway in 1975. It ran for four years, winning a Tony Award for lead actress Ellen Burstyn, who later recreated her role in the successful film of the same title opposite Alan Alda.

Cast Kieran Buckeridge, Sarah Kempton, Directed by Michael Cabot

SAME TIME, NEXT YEAR
By Bernard Slade
Devonshire Park Theatre
Tue 5 Apr 2022 – Sat 9 Apr 2022
https://www.eastbournetheatres.co.uk/

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  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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