Sarah Daniels’ new play Between Us sneaks the audience in to the treatment room hear the confidential discussions between a therapist and her troubled patients. Julia (Charlotte Cornwell) has been a therapist for years. She says she does it to assure affluent people that their decisions are ok. What we expect when the first client (Callum Dixon as Dave) sits down in the chair, looking at us with eyes demanding approval to confess his difficulties adjusting to wealthy parenthood, is a night full of moaning rich people. Between Us has a lot more than this in store.
The play is mainly delivered in monologues that are gradually and surprisingly interwoven. Daniels creates four complex and engaging characters whose back stories emerge appointment by appointment or in brief meetings in bars and restaurants. They are so interesting and likeable that the audience can’t wait for their next appearance to hear more and to slot another of the story’s puzzle pieces in place. Dave is a builder with a degree who thinks he might have post-natal depression, worries for his daughter’s future in a patriarchal society and has a secret past he would rather forget. Teresa (Georgina Rich) is a middle class Mummy with a life and family that seem perfect from the outside but begin to crumble after the police pay her a visit. Julia spends her out-of-office hours as a stand-up comedian – she’s really very funny – joking frankly about sex, periods, equality and her long-lost daughter Kath (also played by Rich).
It’s fitting that in a play that engages with feminism and the issues of our sexist society that the actresses stand out far more than the play’s male character. Charlotte Cornwell is the star of the show as the wickedly funny Julia, drawing laughs when her jokes are about Hackney and the theatre and winces when they move to the nether regions. Georgina Rich plays two very different parts so well that I almost had to check the cast list. But Callum Dixon does a great job too, bringing out all the depth in conflicted, sensitive geezer Dave.
Watching the twists and turns of Between Us unveil themselves is thoroughly engaging and the device proves the accomplishment of its writer. Daniels’ darkly comic dissection of modern life is a really great play which is why it’s a shame that she crams just a bit too much into the 75 minutes. Tackling issues from adoption to class struggles to feminism is ambitious but leaves the show feeling underdeveloped. Between Us is spread too thinly and at times feels too targeted at the middle class parents in the audience. It’s a bit like the soft, soothing words of a therapist: while I’m sure a lot of the audience left feeling reassured (and maybe rather smug) about their life choices, Between Us’ gentle voice was not loud enough, nor was the hour long enough, to express all the ideas buried in Daniels’ clever concept.