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Moments/Empty Beds review at Hope Theatre, London – ‘truthfulness and intimacy’

Scene from Moments/Empty Beds at Hope Theatre, London Scene from Moments/Empty Beds at Hope Theatre, London. Photo: Nick Reed
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This double bill of plays by Julia Cranney contains an undeniable truthfulness and intimacy – though there are times when these qualities get diluted by generic plotting and slow-burn pacing.

The first play, Moments, is a Lost in Translation-style meeting of lost souls. Ava (Cranney) is a disillusioned millennial hiding her crippling loneliness behind a self-effacing smile. Daniel (Simon Mattacks) is a plain-speaking, middle-aged everyman estranged from his family. There’s real tenderness in the pair’s awkward encounters on public transport, although Ava is the more developed character. Having the pair speak each other’s stage directions is a touch awkward, and the early juxtaposition of Ava and Daniel’s lives feels forced.

The second play, Empty Beds, explores the buried resentment when Emily (Carys Wright) moves away for university, leaving her sisters (Cranney again and Debbie Brannan) to care for their sick brother. Though well-executed, Cranney’s text treads familiar ground and her characters behave in predictable ways. The piece has a meandering pace, yet the sisters’ complex mix of frustration and fierce love for each other is compelling.

Both plays capture the agonising opaqueness of mental health conditions; the thought processes of the suffering characters remain just out of reach or are completely obscured. Kate Treadell’s simplistic black box staging compliments Cranney’s quiet character dramas well, and Cranney proves herself an accomplished actor in both her roles.

 

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Verdict
Double-bill of unassuming but insightful plays by Julia Cranney
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