James McDermott’s play Time and Tide is inspired by his own experiences of working in a Norfolk seaside cafe and the dramas that would play out on a daily basis.
Not much happens until the final half hour, but by the end, all the characters have had to face their worries head-on. The heart of the drama is the surrogate mother-son relationship between cafe proprietor May (Wendy Nottingham), a former dancer, and gay aspiring actor Nemo (Josh Barrow), who’s about to fly the nest for university in London.
In May’s rundown greasy spoon (a true-to-life design by Caitlin Abbott), it’s convenient that no customers visit during the day when the play takes place, in which the characters’ conflicting feelings come to a head and they decide whether or not to act upon them. Rob Ellis’ production is prone to longueurs, particularly in the extended scene setting.
The play is held together by the warm maternal encouragement of Nottingham’s May, and Elliot Liburd brings volatile energy as Daz, Nemo’s laddish best friend with no interest in life beyond Cromer. He is as much May’s protégé as the rather blank, naive Nemo.
The fourth wheel, loyal baker Ken (Paul Easom), comes across as a bit of a windy mouthpiece, representing local businesses being closed down by chain stores.
A neat, recurring motif is the way in which the cafe door requires a good push to open and close, summarising the characters’ love/hate relationship with Cromer itself and the people that draw them back.