Much like the Tristan Bates Theatre, Tom Ward-Thomas’ writing debut One of Those is simple, unpretentious and effective. On the train from London to Cornwall and stuck on two ranges of torn Great Western seats, the five characters are forced to challenge their cultural stereotypes, to overcome their class conceits, and each proves less shallow than was at first suspected.
The strength of the play is its believable and well-crafted set of characters. When James, a privileged ex-public school boy from Battersea, and Laura, a Shoreditch would-be hippie who is dating a hedge fund manager, connect over their inability to spell the word ‘bureaucracy’, I grew an immediate dislike for these so recognisable stereotypes and felt smugly comforted in my superior complexity. This is exactly the sort of superficial judgement that the play condemns and, as the conversation deepens, the viewer’s expectations are subverted. James, ably played by Ward-Thomas himself, is touching when he confides on the struggles of teenage parenthood. Laura’s emotional depth is less exploited but Amy Newton’s acting is both funny and authentic. The whole audience easily relates to the two young Londoners, the text is witty and sharp: Act I is free flowing and delightful. James rounds it up nicely as he satirically quips that ‘time flies when you’re being judged’, and I feel slightly scolded for judging too quickly.
When the train arrives in Penzance, we are as sad to see them go as they are to say goodbye to each other. After the interval, Act II opens with a seemingly unrelated sketch. Philip, a wealthy lawyer, and his mistress Davina are relishing the prospect of a weekend away when they run into Alice, Philip’s wife. Once again, our expectations are subverted: behind their apparent selfishness, these characters have troubles of their own. The play convincingly depicts the difficulty of keeping a family together when work is in London and home is by the sea. Davina is convincing as a recent divorcee with a newfound taste for hedonism, and Carole Street’s portrayal of the sardonic housewife especially stands out. It is impressive that such a young playwright as Ward-Thomas should be able to so sensitively describe what they all agree is ‘a midlife crisis.’ Nevertheless, the awkward silences that punctuate this uncomfortable scene are often too prolonged and tend to slow the action down. The mood of Act II is comparatively serious and subdued, and I found myself wishing for the jovial lightness that characterized Act I.
One of Those delivers exactly what it promises: ‘a fast-paced comedy’. With very little movement and no props but trains seats, it is Tom Ward-Thomas’ text alone that keeps us entertained – and does it well.
One of Those delivers exactly what it promises.