Review by Daz Gale
Nestled just a stones throw from the huge Her Majesty’s and Haymarket Theatres in Piccadilly is the relatively tiny Jermyn Street Theatre. It may have a capacity of 70 but it is a case of being small but mighty as they have a reputation for putting on some incredible productions. Their latest is the world premiere of a new play from Peter Gill – that was enough to give me my long overdue first visit to the theatre.
Something In The Air tells the story of Alex and Colin – two elderly men recounting the story of their adventures together as young men including how they met and fell in love as well as a few twists on the way. As they sit in their chairs reminiscing of the past, their younger selves come to life beside them as living memories. Meanwhile, each of the men receives a visit from a family member who have differing responses to the old couples relationship – but why that is is not immediately clear.
This is a beautifully gentle story where Alex and Colins words can bring the story to life in more ways than their younger selves being present. Delicate in its approach, charming and unashamedly romantic, Peter Gills writing is a delight full of heart-warming moments and some sadder aspects of the affair. As the play progresses, it becomes clear all is not as it seems. Without spoiling anything, Something In The Air is less innocent than it first appears with complexities adding to the tale. While this change is signposted throughout, it still comes as a surprise when it becomes apparent. There could have been a bit more clarity perhaps during the shows climax, with the reveal of these events not having the same impact as you might have expected, having spent the previous hour invested in these characters.
The two elderly men are played by Ian Gelder as Colin and Christopher Godwin as Alex. As Colin, Gelder is charismatic and charming as he leads the stories and interacts with his various cast members in a compelling performance. Godwin gives a stellar performance as Alex who drifts in and out of lucidity, flitting from various stories before returning to the present as his son struggles to make conversation with him. In what is a heartfelt and moving portrayal, Godwin is an undoubted highlight of the play.
As the apparent younger versions of Alex and Colin (just don’t look at the names until after you have seen the play), James Schofield and Sam Thorpe-Spinks are fantastic channelling the exuberant innocence and carefree nature of youth as they gradually discover the harder aspects of life. Though they are woefully underused, their brief time in the spotlight adds a refreshing element to the play, with their constant silent presence in the background is an art to their subtlety as performers.
The cast is completed by Andrew Woodall as Andrew and Claire Price as Clare as the family members who come to visit but spend more time focusing on their own lives than speaking to their relatives. This could be a nod to how older people are treated particularly when visited in care homes – however, these characters are never fleshed out enough. A bit more exposition in their relationships with Alex and Colin could have provided some more depth to the story.
The direction from Peter Gill and Alice Hamilton keeps Alex and Colin in their chairs throughout but the detail of when one character remains awake and the slightest bit of movement including the beauty of an innocent handhold keeps the action interesting throughout, while the younger men coming in and out of the spotlight brings a new atmosphere to the proceedings.
At its heart, Something In The Air is a love letter to London, life and love itself. The contrast between the young men and the older men is a stark reminder of the fragility of life which can lead to a more moving response than you might be expecting. The acting from all the cast elevates this while the beautifully descriptive writing is a joy to listen to. At 65 minutes, it is a quick delve into the lives and loves of these men, but with the feeling of performers being underused and certain themes not fleshed out enough, this feels like an instance where an extra 15 minutes might have added a bit more gravitas to the show. While it may not be completely perfect, it is still a highly enjoyable show and one that left me wanting more.
Something In The Air is at Jermyn Street Theatre until November 12th. Tickets from jermynstreettheatre.co.uk
Photos by Steve Gregson