Tryst at Chiswick Playhouse is a masterclass in theatre in the purest sense. Performed in a tiny room above a pub, there’s no fancy revolving stage, elaborate set changes or expensive costumes on show here. Instead, a reliance on the skill of the actors, some clever direction and an atmospheric backdrop prove that regardless of budget, the essence of theatre is good storytelling. If this is done well, magic is made.
The set is eery; shabby white sheets draped across a blue green room that doubles as hat shop, restaurant, seaside boarding house, and everything in between. Designer Jessica Staton has done exceptionally well, creating a set against which the fast-paced plot can propel the characters from room to room, down bustling Edwardian London streets and seaside promenades in remarkably believable fashion. A testament also to the excellent direction and actors who seamlessly traverse the stage and intertwine with the props, transforming every space and item into what it needs to be in the moment. Nothing is superfluous and everything becomes real and meaningful in their hands.
The plot shifts as much as the landscape and it is intriguing to watch the dynamic between the (only) two characters changing and developing. Based on true events, the play follows the seduction of shop girl Adelaide Pinchin by conman George Love and the devastating consequences that ensue. Writer Karoline Leach has taken an outline of a story and coloured it in with imagination, warmth and psychological depth. In doing so, in the context of the real case, it is at times difficult to believe her interpretation and this feeling lingers even without prior knowledge of events. The play however remains engaging, entertaining and thrilling from start to finish, and ends leaving you compelled to find out more.
Considering the relative simplicity of the set up – just two actors on stage for the full 85 minutes with limited resources, the resulting fluidity, pace and style of the play is a stunning achievement from actors Scarlett Brookes and Fred Perry, and indeed all of the creative team who have collaborated in beautiful harmony.
This fascinating and enjoyable performance demonstrates the magical art of storytelling is alive and well in Chiswick.