The pub garden: a place intended for a light-hearted drink or quick cigarette, but often host to the deepest and most honest conversations. For Mark, John and Liz it is a place they have in common, a place they feel at home. Relative strangers at the beginning of the play, small talk they share there leads to a relationship in which they often confide things they haven’t before.
Eventide begins on the day of the funeral of a young girl named Lucy, a girl from the village who was killed in a car accident. The event causes both Mark (Hasan Dixon) and John (James Doherty) to reflect on the point they are currently at in their lives and question their path and happiness. For Mark, he realises the love he felt for Lucy and is aware that there will never now be a possibility to pursue this love. He is unable to attend her funeral as he can’t afford to not work, but to make things harder his job is to repair the war memorial that she crashed into. For John, this is the day he is selling the pub he has been landlord of for years. He worries he will be judged for selling his pub to ‘the man’, but has to do so because of his divorce. He worries he has had no influence or role in the village other than to provide refreshments for others. The cheerful Liz (Ellie Piercy) arrives for a glass of lemonade and a cigarette, her monthly tradition before playing the organ in the local church, but John questions whether behind her bubbly façade she is truly happy. In some way or another they are all mourning the loss of something.
Barney Norris’s script is understated but truly brilliant in the way it looks at the importance of conversation; sometimes even the smallest of exchanges can distract from loneliness. As the famous saying goes, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, and throughout the play the three characters share their heartbreak, worries and dreams. The in-the-round staging creates a relaxed atmosphere, as though the audience is just a fly on the wall. We get to know and care about the personalities of the characters through witnessing the raw and often hilarious conversations they have with each other. All three actors perform the work with ease but it is clear it has been intricately directed.
Act Two is set in the same location one year on, on Mark’s wedding day. Having found someone who truly loves him and working as the assistant manager of the pub, he appears to be moving on. But have the characters changed since the last time we saw them or are they as lost and unsure as ever? John asks, “do you wanna take a risk or would you rather never risk anything?”, but the overall feeling of the piece is that time is just falling away and all it really leaves in its wake is lost opportunities.
Eventide is playing at the Arcola Theatre until 17 October. For more information and tickets, see the Arcola Theatre website. Photo by Mark Douet.