Beginning at the Ambassadors Theatre
Autumn, 2015, Crouch End. Laura and Danny are two lonely, vulnerable souls looking for a connection at the tail end of a housewarming party. Described as a modern-day anti-romance, David Elridge’s Beginning is a social commentary on loneliness, and the lengths we are willing to go to make a connection.
Danny (Sam Troughton) is a divorced father, who hasn’t seen his seven-year-old daughter in four years, something he’s deeply affected by and which makes him quite an introvert; he describes himself as having “no radar” when it comes to dating women. Laura (Justine Mitchell), on the other hand, is very forthcoming and earnest, with a heightened awareness of her ticking biological clock that causes her to reveal startling personal truths and desires. As the play unfolds, it becomes clear that these two have something special: they are sincere, and see each other without preconceived judgement. There are tragic backstories that spur the characters’ intents along, providing context viewers sympathise with – we’re almost willing them to end up together. The usual awkwardness exists, as in most first dates, with heavy silences, funny dancing and familial anecdotes, yet the sexual tension remains palpable.
Polly Findlay’s heartfelt production and Fly Davis’s stage design are impressive in the attention to detail, the props adding intimate familiarity that makes Laura’s flat look very homely and lived in, complete with a cooker and stove. The lack of a musical score and a two-character play told in one act in real time makes the piece feel longer, but it allows theatregoers to invest emotion, and possess a deeper understanding of the protagonists.
Though both Mitchell and Troughton give great performances, it is his that truly shines. The style in which Troughton expresses his character, with ease and nonchalance, combined with a sweet vulnerability, produces innumerable guffaws of laughter from the audience. Elridge’s offbeat, awkward humour makes Beginning highly relatable, and a genuine modern-day love story. We really feel Danny’s sadness on missing his daughter and Laura’s loneliness – a gaping hole that is not filled by her wealth, as she laments, “I can’t bear another Sunday on my own”.
To begin anything takes a certain amount of resolve. Laura and Danny are a comfort to one another, after debating and analysing their motives and the probable consequences throughout the evening. Her detailed plan of a desired relationship with Danny would make most, if not all men, run away scared, but this distinct honesty is at the crux of their budding relationship. It is challenging enough to broach the subject of parenthood with an existing partner, so what Laura does is to be applauded.
In an age where people turn to social media and dating applications for approval and meaningful relationships, which have us clicking away every chance we get, Beginning offers a vicariousness that viewers can see a little of themselves in. Perceptively capturing the nervous frenzy of finding a compatible match, and the positive outcomes that can be borne from non-internet conversations, laying your cards out on the table may not seem like such a bad idea after all.
Photo: Johan Persson
Beginning is at the Ambassador’s Theatre from 15th January until 24th March 2018. Book your tickets here.
Watch the trailer for Beginning here: