What happens to hope at the end of the evening

[author-post-rating] (3/5 Stars)

What happens to the hope at the end of the evening is a large title for what appears to be a pretty small show; two men, mates and performers, on stage with a chair. However, what looks to be the simplest of performances at the outset shows itself to be extremely clever and in-depth under the surface. It’s this cleverness that I didn’t quite get on with and, although commendable for its ideas, the performance didn’t move me as much as I wanted it to.

The idea behind it is, of course, simple: a desire between friends and theatre makers Tim Crouch and Andy Smith to work together on stage, to explore their differences and similarities. The performance sees them throwing their lives together, and exploring thoughts about theatre itself. We begin with Smith who sits, thanks us for coming and begins to read from a script. “I am waiting for my friend” he says, a phrase which sets up the only dramatic context for the scenes that follow and is returned to again and again. Smith talks to us as an audience, often discussing intellectual theory on the theatre and in particular its audiences. His quote from Jill Dolan that, in the theatre, “we are slightly above the present”, is a good indication of how structure and time are played with in this piece.

Crouch enters, the friend late arriving having been delayed at an anti-EDL demo. Crouch inhabits a fictional realm, whilst Smith flits between brilliantly performed dialogue between the two and intellectual theorising with the audience. What follows are a series of scenes that see the two go through a tempestuous exploration of their relationship, the way their lives have drifted after not seeing each other for years and how they might fit together again.

It’s a difficult show to get hold of, straddling the border between performance and non-performance. It plays with theatre as a medium, referencing itself and asking us to consider what theatre is for us, what it can be, and what we want it to be. Although we are only asked to participate twice, the whole structure of the piece and the way it constantly refers to the possibilities latent within the theatre audience makes the performance interactive from beginning to end. Sadly all hope for this particular audience left me as my right-hand neighbour refused to shake my hand and looked appalled at being asked to remove her shoes.

I, for one, enjoyed removing my shoes and getting comfy in the theatre – I just wasn’t totally comfortable with the performance itself. What happens to the hope at the end of the evening is a thoughtful play both in its construction and in the work it requires of its audience members. It asks insightful and important questions about audiences, community and the way we live our lives. I just found the conflicting performance styles, the constant struggling to figure out how I was to take this as a performance stopped me from fully engaging with the content.

What happens to the hope at the end of the evening has now finished its run at Brighton Festival.