HETTY SAUNDERS finds a new piece of writing with something to say, and takes a Moment to stop and listen.
Larkum Studio, 14th – 18th February, 8pm, £4-6
Directed by Matt Clayton
Dialogue is hard to write. It’s even harder to write convincingly. You have to avoid those awkward bits when characters tell each other stuff they already know but the audience doesn’t – a problem which Ibsen never bothered trying to fix, but which usually grates.
The words ‘new writing’ in Cambridge theatre evoke wariness rather than curiosity because on the spectrum from ‘very good’ to ‘appallingly mediocre’ it tends to hit the latter. To be fair, the downright bad is rare but pretension or boringness is never far away, and I would be deeply suspicious of any student who calls themselves a ‘writer’ with a tone of seriousness.
However, first-year Hellie Cranney’s Moments is no such egotistical indulgence. Its dialogue is intelligent and often laugh-out-loud funny. And, importantly, it neither patronises nor confuses the audience. Constituting the serendipitous encounters of two strangers, there are more than enough allowances made for the exploration of the conversational faux pas, the moments in life when you have to qualify yourself to another human being by saying, as the character of Daniel does, ‘I’m not a weirdo!’ There are times when it feels a little forced, but on the whole it is very impressive, especially when you consider that in about two-thirds of the dialogue we only hear one side of the conversation.
This sort of stuff is tricky to act convincingly too, but both Andrea Tudose (Ava) and Harry Baker (Daniel) sustain it well. Tudose felt the more natural of the two, portraying without difficulty the spiky reservation of the jilted Ava. Baker does nervous chatter competently, but he occasionally over-played the eagerness. He did, however, have the benefit of the best lines of the two, more than once receiving a delighted roar of laughter from the audience. The Larkum Studio is an interesting choice. I have been sceptical in the past that it isn’t big enough to swing a cat, let alone put on a play. But I was pleasantly surprised with the production’s economic use of the space. It turned what is a small room into something that was intimate rather than claustrophobic.
What is clear is that Moments is a show that has been lovingly put together by a very small number of people. Good writing like this should be supported whole-heartedly, and Moments is good. More than that, it attempts at being smart and hits more than it misses. Moments is about openness, about speaking, and about listening. This play is trying to say something, and I urge you to go along and hear it.