Hello/Goodbye is a kitchen sink drama: however, exactly who that kitchen sink belongs to is a real bone of contention. Having been forced to make a swift exit from her previous abode, Juliet (Miranda Raison) is excited to move into her new flat. Yet what her estate agent failed to mention was the built-in house-warming gift: a gawky male named Alex (Shaun Evans). However it isn’t Juliet’s flat at all, much to her dismay; she discovers that Alex signed the paperwork first, and therefore legally the flat belongs to him. Not wanting to be bogged by down technicalities, an ever melodramatic and highly-strung Juliet demands that Alex vacate the premises immediately. To refer to the protagonists as polar opposites would be an understatement, as Juliet’s spoilt princess-like nature clashes with introverted avid collector Alex. This dynamic forms the crux of Hello/Goodbye: despite their stark differences there is underlying sexual tension between the pair, resulting in a live action rom-com unfolding before our very eyes.
The entirety of the action in Hello/Goodbye takes place within the four walls of the flat, and our critical gaze is therefore intensely focused on this mismatched couple’s idiosyncrasies. Alex’s most prominent quirk is his insatiable need to collect complete sets, of anything and everything, such as his quest to own every Happy Meal toy that McDonalds has ever produced. It’s a trait that is symptomatic of Alex’s need for order and control, which detrimentally manifests itself to cope with any form of chaos. Whereas in complete juxtaposition, Juliet is an erratic and emotional volcano that frequently erupts. Despite this, their innate differences crumble away when faced with their palpable chemistry and sexual attraction.
The work is divided into two clear sections that occur either side of the interval. The first, which refers to the “Hello” portion of the title, is when the pair first meet and squabble over ownership of the flat; after the intermission, 10 years have passed, but unlike before they are now arguing over their messy divorce. Personally I felt that the piece really finds its feet in the latter “Goodbye” section, as it presents the fragile complexities found in the disintegration of a marriage in a believable and multifaceted manner. It is poignant and moving to reflect on the fact that Alex and Juliet start and end the play as strangers.
At its core, Hello/Goodbye is about relationships and the underlying power of what goes unsaid. It works as the characters are well-rounded and easy to relate to; there’s nothing exceptional about this work, but in many ways its depiction of normality is a major part of its charm. Hello/Goodbye provides a snapshot of two pivotal moments in this couple’s journey. The ending is quite predicable and reads like the final page in a fairy tale but, that said, Hello/Goodbye makes for an enjoyable and entertaining evening.
Hello/Goodbye is playing at Hampstead Theatre until 28 February. For tickets and more information, please visit the Hampstead Theatre website.