Review: People Like Us/Happy Never After, Pleasance ✭✭✭✭

James Quaife Productions offer two clever and swift pieces to an almost intrusively close audience at the Pleasance theatre. This production hosts two performances which question how to maintain and achieve happiness.

Jake Brunger’s People Like Us is the epitome of an awkwardly frustrating evening in the company of family. Tom, the husband and the most challenging character of the evening, is the primary source for an uneasy sarcasm. Clemmy, the downtrodden and neglected peace-keeper is buckling under the pressure of her younger brother’s visit even before his arrival. Josh, to the amusement of Clemmy’s obnoxious and snobbish husband, brings home what the pair assumes to be a stereotypical beauty queen. The writing hosts a brilliantly challenging humour which contains an undercurrent of bitterness and resentment, fuelled by gloriously funny class and personality clashes.

Kirsty Patrick Ward’s direction pitches the contrasts of the characters perfectly. All four performers and characters have a lovely chemistry, despite their dislike for each other. The overlapping and consistently bickering type of dialogue built to an excitingly inevitable conclusion. Typically honest and naturalistic, the production showcased the infuriating circumstances of family or forced gatherings.

Hannah Rodger’s Happily Never After shows the decline of youthful idealisms and the readjustment of naive expectations. In this instance the Catholic schoolboy who has shocked his family and found his dream girl, watches helplessly as the prospect of illness riddles his love and his relationship.

In a short space of time, director Luke Sheppard delivered a sobering message – youth and optimism is short-lived.

The stage is littered with boxes, and brought to life by two exceptionally energetic and hopeful performers. Lydia Samuel’s bright 90s soundtrack fuels the youthful nature of the piece brilliantly, but it is Jessica Ellis as Jen Williams who embraces idealism and hope perfectly whilst dancing and stuffing her face gloriously with hobnobs. Liam Mansfield plays the doting and somewhat defeated boyfriend with a heart-warming grace. Together, the duo hope, despair, and lash-out in response to an alarming reality.

Luke Sheppard directs a monumental disintegration of carefree youth within this production. The lighting, soundtrack, and repositioning of the sofa, acted as the only overtly theatrical elements of production. The quality of this production is wholly down to the distinctive and believable characters. The characters entered full of promise, and left coming of age. In a short space of time, Sheppard delivered a sobering message – youth and optimism is short-lived.

Joined by the exploration of happiness, and the questioning of what is important, this double bill is tragically funny. From awkwardly hysterical, to brashly offensive, these productions offer a familiar tale of love and hate with an exceptionally truthful edge and an extraordinary attention to detail.

**** 4 stars
Runs until 30th November
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