Directed by Tamara Harvey
Summary: It’s a new year. And Juliet, young, smart, and sassy has got herself a fresh start in a new flat. But there’s a problem: amidst the boxes, a strange guy is also moving in – and he won’t leave. He says the agency has messed up and her flat is actually his flat. As if that’s not enough, the real problem is that, well, he’s rather gorgeous…
First of all: I love the Hampstead Theatre and will certainly try to go there again. It’s the first time I’ve been (I’ve seen two live broadcasts on my laptop, but that’s hardly the same). The foyer with its café is very inviting, and the space is lovely and with 350 seats still semi-intimate.
The first half of the play deals with Juliet and Alex meeting under rather unusual circumstances. Alex, who collects McDonalds toys and other nerdy stuff, is already unpacking when Juliet, fresh out of her last relationship (she cheated on her boyfriend with his best friend at said best friend’s wedding) arrives with her box of stuff, both insisting that this is their flat. Over the course of the next hour, they get to know each other, while they both are trying to get the other to leave, and at the same time trying to fight their growing attraction to one another.
After a rather amusing set change (the Hampstead has a thrust stage, hence no curtains to hide behind), where the kitchen is transformed to “10 years later” (including turning the tile floor to a wooden floor) we find ourselves and our protagonits in a rather different situation, the division of their last remaining items of belongings after the failure of their marriage. While trying to decide who gets what, they reminisce about their time together, and suddenly all the things that lead to the end of their relationship finally get aired out.
Miranda Raison’s Juliet with her at times crude “my way or the highway” and “cheating on my boyfriend is no big deal” attitudes grated on my nerves from time to time, but that’s more a writing issue than an acting issue. She isn’t the one who made Juliet into a serial adulterer, that was Peter Souter’s doing. I also had some issues with the second act in as much as you can see that Alex has “grown up” in the last ten years, whereas Juliet seems to be stuck in her adolescent ways. Frankly, if I were Alex, I wouldn’t want her back.
Shaun Evans is flawless and nuanced as geeky, slightly OCD Alex, you want to give him a hug every five minutes. Or every three minutes. Or just don’t let go. Both Leo Starr as Juliet’s ex-boyfriend and Bathsheba Piepe as the mysterious Amanda didn’t have a lot of stage time, but especially Piepe was very good.
Some critics have bemoaned the lack of substance in this play. I myself was quite enjoying the fact that after seeing quite a lot of heavy stuff in the last few months, I was finally able to sit back, relax, and just enjoy a “harmless” romcom for two hours.