One Day When We Were Young
THIS is the first of three plays being presented in the round in a specially-constructed auditorium for the Roundabout Season co-produced by Paines Plough.
It puts the audience at close quarters for Nick Payne’s story which begins with teenagers Leonard and Violet spending their first night together in an air-raid in 1942 and wondering if it will be their last and follows them over 60 years. The heart of the play is to show how war casts a shadow over their lives and their love for evermore.
From that wartime hotel room, the play goes on to a park in 1963 and a living room in 2002.
Director Clare Lizzimore and designer Lucy Osborne solve the problem of how you switch scenes in such an intimate setting by wheeling on theatrical dressing tables and we watch the actors change and apply ageing make-up before our eyes while the stage crew change the set (to the accompaniment of musical hits from the era).
It works well in making the ageing process by the young actors seem more natural.
Maia Alexander glides from spirited teenager to sweet old lady and Andrew Sheridan convinces as an elderly Leonard with deaf aid, helped by the fact his character changes little over the years.
Without giving too much away, Leonard is a disappointed man.
What had sustained him, like so many serviceman, through those years away was the belief that he would return to the life he knew before, only to find that the world had moved on.
Violet has embraced change but it she who sheds tears at the end about what might have been.
It’s hard to share her emotions because we never know that much about her other life and also the feeling that Leonard and Violet are probably too different to have made a go of it.
Still, it’s a poignant story, nicely-observed with gentle humour.