On arrival at the St. James Theatre, I find myself surrounded by adolescent females and wonder whether I might’ve stepped into the wrong place. It turns out that I am, in fact, in the right theatre and the young women are all here to see Thomas Brodie-Sangster in the first stage role of his career. The young lad (famous for playing lovesick Sam in Richard Curtis’s Love Actually) has grown up into a fine actor, and Andrew Bridgmont’s Summer of Love seems to be a great starting point for him on the stage.
As part of their ‘lunchtime theatre’ season, the play totalling just 45 minutes is the perfect antidote to a dull day in the office, and many in the matinee audience seemed to be enjoying just that. Writer Andrew Bridgmont has been well backed by Damont Productions in bringing his work to the stage, and they prove to be another important supportive environment for new theatrical and TV writing.
Kenneth (Brodie-Sangster) chats to his friend Rakesh on the phone, telling him exactly what is happening in his life. His hovercraft-obsessed dad Douglas seems to be acting rather strange, and the new lodger of the family caravan, Jean-Pierre, seems to be rather too interested in Kenneth’s mother. When a wrongly addressed email attachment reaches Douglas, shockwaves are sent through the family and their caravan in Southsea.
It is a finely crafted three-hander that allows all of the actors to show their true comedic timing. Claire Porter as Kenneth’s mum Rebecca is a hoot to watch as she negotiates the relationships in her life with much hysterical rage. As Douglas, Trevor Murphy engages the audience with his bipolar thought patterns and big heart. As Kenneth, Brodie-Sangster seems to find his real comedic flow during his monologues, but there is no denying that his years of childhood acting have greatly influenced his natural ease on stage and his easily likeable character.
The sound design in the small space of the St. James Theatre Studio should not go unnoticed, and credit should be given to Charlie Hodsdon for creating a soundscape much bigger than the playing space.
Whilst the premise and scale is small, Summer of Love is a play that has the potential to be presented on a grander stage with some extensions. Its fast-paced humour is well received, and its cast does great justice to its comedic elements. A perfect lunchtime retreat for those seeking a little bit of extra theatre in their working day.
Summer of Love is playing at the St. James Theatre until 1 August. For more information and tickets, see the St. James Theatre website. Photo: St James Theatre.