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Between Ten and Six, Leicester Square Theatre, Bargaintheatreland reviewIf imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Between Ten and Six may be one of the most flattering plays in London. Unfortunately, its confused hotchpotch of inspirations makes it more half-finished, drama-student scrapbook than a satisfying piece of standalone Theatre.

The premise is decent, if familiar – two wildly different characters forced into one living space (so far, so Odd Couple) due to topical housing problems (a popular studio theatre theme at the moment – see D. C. Moore’s Straight at the Bush, Sarah Wooley’s Old Money at Hampstead), leading to bouts of black comedy, excess and predictable escalation into violence.

That the play sacrifices dramatic development for pastiche is problematic enough, but it can’t even decide which genre or writer it wants to ape the most. Is this a contemporary take on Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, or a Pinteresque study of everyday menace, or a British comedy of manners tipping over into macabre, à la Sightseers, or a Fawlty Towers hysterical farce, or an extended Little Britain sketch, or a Psycho-style episode of Midsomer Murders, or, or, or…?

It’s like an eager puppy, trying desperately to please. If you don’t like this style, there’s another one on the way! Farce isn’t your thing? We’re also having a crack at thriller, and maybe romance, and floating witticisms, and this recurring gag with pea stew! Please don’t go, we’ve got more in the back!

This quantity over quality approach works on occasion, as a pun lands, or a beat of cartoon creepiness, or a dig at North London’s unreliable overground service. (We’ve all been there!)

That some moments escape unharmed is due in large part to the performance of stars and co-writers Chris Mayo and Owen Llewelyn. Mayo gets a lot of mileage out of the squirming awkwardness of well-meaning, left-leaning, teetotaler Charlie, bewildered by the hulking figure of his psychotic landlord who seems custom-made to cause him maximum embarrassment and pain. Llewelyn, likewise, revels in his character’s quicksilver shifts from sinister over-sharing to quivering rage, with a sly wink to the ‘I’m not racist, but…’ Daily Mail reader archetype (Al Murray’s pub landlord with a few more screws loose and a paunch, essentially.)

On the evidence of this piece, the pair should stick to performing. Both have chops as actor-comedians and manage to sell bits of the drama, but their skill is swallowed up by this black hole of bewildering and at times unintentionally hilarious experimentation.

There is a fine line between demonstrating that ‘Hell is other people’ for your characters, and convincing an uncomfortable audience of the same thing.

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Reviewed 18/04/13/

By Marianka Swain

16th – 20th Apr 2013
Leicester Square Theatre, London, WC2.


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