Arcola Theatre, London E8
Opened 5 September, 2002

**** Spare, affecting tale of differing bereavements

Julian Garner's two-hander won a Fringe First in Edinburgh; in this less cramped venue, it has room to create the sparse feeling it needs.

Bill and Anna find themselves marooned late one night in the remains of a West Country fishing village long since swallowed by the sea. The villagers' loss meshes with their own in a manner reminiscent of David Rudkin, as they confront the death of their baby daughter, and we are shown the aftermath of the couple facing up to that event.

Garner overwrites a little right at the end of the 75 minutes, but through the rest of the piece he mixes the direct and the oblique with expertise. "Emotional roller-coaster" doesn't begin to do justice to the inconsistencies, sudden twists and behavioural oxymorons, but the important thing is that they all ring true, speaking of the kind of emotional turmoil that Anna in particular undergoes.

It's a demanding role, and Cathy Owen is largely up to it; Robin Pirongs as Bill has slightly more room to create considered nuance. But Theresa Heskins' direction for Pentabus Theatre Company (which she has remade from a regional touring outfit into a new writing company) is sure and confident enough never to resort to histrionics. Two people on an all but bare stage supply all that is needed.

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Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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