It’s been a long time since there’s been such a buzz of excitement at the Ambassadors Theatre. The faithful home of West End favourite Stomp for 11 and a half years, it’s time to breathe some new life into the boards. And what better way than with a transfer of David Eldridge’s sell-out play, Beginning.
The piece ran in the National Theatre’s Dorfman last year, and following great reviews, it became nigh impossible to grab a ticket. Lucky, then, that it was picked up for a transfer to the West End (Cameron Mackintosh has previously announced plans to give similar limited run/regional work a new lease of life at the theatre.)
As you flood into the theatre, a classic noughties house party soundtrack thumps out. The curtain lifts to reveal Danny and Laura, who are both about the age you agreed you’d marry your best friend if you were still single by then. They’ve just seen off the last of the stragglers at Laura’s housewarming do, and chat through excruciating icebreakers in the post-rave bomb site that is now her living room.
We all know what’s going to happen here, but it’s no run-of-the-mill one-night stand - if there was such a thing. We learn how Danny, a nervous, chatty beta-male, hasn’t seen his daughter for 4 years but still has her in his Facebook profile picture. How Laura, a high-achiever with both feet on the ground, wants a family life, but may not get many more chances.
It’s full of funny moments to break the emotional tension, mostly courtesy from Sam Troughton’s drunken Danny, whether it’s a Dad-dance jig or his almost impressive inability to read a situation, or a person. Justine Mitchell handles Laura’s determination to get laid with tact. They seem pretty mismatched: she’s the driven managing director of her firm, he’s spent half the party with a conspicuous ketchup stain on his shirt. Eventually, it’s their realisation that their lack of time, options and opportunity means this is the best - and maybe last - chance for them to start something meaningful. It’s more tragic than it is a love story.
The wonderful thing about both Eldridge’s dialogue and Polly Findlay’s production is that they are so effortless. Conversations like this will take place all over this Saturday night: deep, meaningful chats over a fish finger sandwich, but it makes for a riveting watch.
Beginning Tickets are available now.
Photo credit Manuel Harlan
What the popular press said...
"It’s wise, tender and funny, packed with lines that zero in on a very British capacity for fudging and fumbling."
Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard (four stars)
"Certainly, as a gift box of insights on the torments of 2010s romance, it’s hard to beat. Modern love has never looked harder."
David Butcher, Radio Times (five stars)
"Brimming with beautiful real-life moments, and in equal measure hilarious, tender and devastating, Beginning is a wonderfully poignant exploration of love and loneliness in the city – a play we’re struggling to find fault with. Magnificent."
Chris Selman, Gay Times (five stars)