Review: ‘tuesday’

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Lion Theatre Company’s ‘tuesday’ is advertised as a ‘hyper-realistic snapshot of life’. The action of Andrew Cowburn’s remarkably compact forty-minute play takes place in real-time as Daniel (Jack Firoozan) and Sophie (Grace Longman) hang out in Daniel’s living room on a Tuesday afternoon after sixth-form. Performed at 4pm on a Tuesday, the realism of the play began almost before the audience entered ‘The Spare Room’ (the Assembly Rooms’ temporary space whilst the main theatre is being refurbished).

The substance of the play certainly captures the essence of 4pm on a Tuesday in Durham: the dialogue is, for the most part, not unlike the conversations my housemates and I have around the kitchen table (and I am sure the same might be said for many Durham students). Notable moments include Sophie responding to something Daniel says with a “lol” and Daniel telling Sophie to hurry up and pick a song because “its not that deep”. ‘tuesday’ is clearly written to be appreciated by a student audience and Cowburn succeeds in capturing the language which is currently in use by the majority of sixth-form and university students. However, one wonders whether the play would excite any interest for a different audience. There were moments when I began to question if it was the merits of the production itself that the audience was enjoying, or if the play relies too heavily on the audience’s appreciation of being ‘in’ on the joke.

Realism presents a unique set of challenges, perhaps the biggest being to keep the minute-by-minute action on stage interesting for the audience. Cowburn’s play begins with an empty stage which remains vacant for at least half a minute – the first of several slightly-too-long instances of a completely actor-less stage. This is followed by fifteen minutes of Firoozan, alone on the stage, doing nothing but slowly unpacking his school bag, eating snacks, skipping through a Spotify playlist, mouthing along to song lyrics and alternating between using his laptop and his phone. Whilst this is a potentially tedious scene for Cowburn to begin his play with, Firoozan’s stage presence kept the audience engaged as he performed Daniel’s mundane yet highly watchable afternoon routine.

Whilst Firoozan remained compelling throughout, he spent much of the final, highly emotional, scene hiding his face from the audience. Whilst this could have been a deliberate creative choice in line with the production’s realism, it nevertheless had the effect of cutting the audience off from the action. However, with Firoozan’s compelling stage presence and his ability to capture the vulnerability of his character, it is easy to see why Firoozan took home the award for best actor at the D’Oscars. Likewise, Longman’s naturalism makes it clear why she was awarded best supporting actress for her role.

Perhaps the biggest credit to the production is that, as a reviewer, I barely took any notes throughout the performance because I was too busy being drawn into the everyday minutiae of the lives of Daniel and Sophie. There was not even a hint of a slip up on lines or a single moment when either Firoozan or Longman broke character which, particularly for a two-hander, is incredibly impressive. If there were any mistakes, the cast handled them so well they passed unnoticed by the audience. Whilst Longman and Firoozan did speak over each other at times, this seemed deliberate and did not render their dialogue unintelligible, instead adding to the realistic way of talking which both actors, but particularly Longman, portrayed very well.

Whilst Cowburn’s play is perfect for a performance on a Tuesday at 4pm in Durham, as well as having enjoyed a successful three-day run during the Durham Drama Festival, I cannot help but feel that something would be lost if the play were performed in another context – for example, at 7pm on a London stage to an audience of mixed ages. However, Cowburn’s ‘tuesday’ remains a thoroughly enjoyable and refreshing piece of student theatre.

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