A Table Set For Two is The Underground Clown Club’s fourth, penultimate show for their ‘Five Years, Five Shows, Five Months’ season. A pretty ambitious undertaking, I’m sure we can all agree, but this company is always ambitious, consistently producing work that is as fresh, new and quality. The Underground Clown Club is impressively and enviably striding through everything worth standing for. They’re nurturing every stage of the process from the inception: the writing (poetry and plays), producing, directing, funding and raising the production from the ground up. A process that, in itself is admirable but has to be combined with, to put it bluntly, some actual bloody talent. It all gets a bit tragic otherwise. From what I’ve seen, they’ve pretty much got the making of it nailed. Five years in, it’s not a one hit wonder either; it’s real work, real drive and real will.
A Table Set For Two, starring and co-written by Andrew Skipper (and co-writer Katie Overstall), with Isla Jeffery starring opposite, has settled in at the sparse, slightly overheated and cosy Etcetera Theatre above a slightly dodgy pub in Camden. As a venue, it’s a neat fit with the company, as it’s a central platform for new writing: cheap, central and willing to host. All A Table Set For Two needs is, well, a table set for two: simple. There are no airs and graces to the story: beginning on a miserably rainy street as husband Henry (Andrew Skipper) calls after his wife Emily (Isla Jeffery) mid-argument, as she leaves him with no suggestion as to its permanence or not. What follows flits between flashbacks of their relationship; how it began, progressed and soured, and Henry eating some lonely spaghetti hoops out of an unloved Tupperware and reading a newspaper aloud to himself. The table is the nucleus of their lives together and his life alone, it literally brings every strand together as Skipper’s structure cleverly meanders through the narrative. Each fragment of time is linked to the next so smoothly and intellectually that I feel like the scene transitions deserve a review all of their own.
The script itself is intricately comedic. The subtle detail in the darker corners of it are human enough to set the comedy movingly alight. Similarly, the performances balance both aspects well. Skipper’s comic timing is particularly sharp. It’s not blow-your-socks off impeccable acting, but it is absolutely as good as it needs to be.
In fact, none of it is ground-breaking, but I very much doubt it’s supposed to be. A Table Set For Two is supposed to be domestic and recognisable. It’s supposed to reflect the potential of our own lives, emotions, loves, losses and general banality. And The Underground Clown Club are so clever with the handling of all these aspects that through the sparsity and simplicity, every one of us left that dark room with no air conditioning incredibly moved. I can’t wait to see what they’ve got up their sleeves next.
A Table Set For Two was playing at The Etcetera Theatre for two performances only. For more information about their future productions and tickets, see the Underground Clown Club website.