Here in London, the idea of social interaction with strangers seems incomprehensible: and this is the premise of this play. As two strangers get stuck alone in a tube carriage together, with no signal or sign of assistance, they begin to build a relationship.
Initially, the pair have an awkward first interaction, but slowly they begin to build a rapport. Michaela Carberry as Rachel plays the part of the awkward ‘posh’ London girl with tenderness, the scene of her talking about her love for Pret really striking a comical chord with everyone in the audience. George Damms as The Man is charming, with his vocals really shining through. Why Damms’ character is never given a name is confusing though, meaning we have less of a connection with his character than with Carberry’s; but together their chemistry is palpable, creating some truly poignant moments about human connection.
Juxtaposing this is a scene where The Man breaks the fourth wall to tell the audience off for not helping them and being to connected to their phone instead of others – which doesn’t feel in keeping with the flow of the piece. Similarly, neither does the final twist from The Man: it feels too sudden and muddies the already confusing themes.
Further complicating things is the fact that the pair have been held for days and are the only two in the carriage (when Rachel is supposed to be on her way to a job interview). This premise makes many theories run through your head as to how this could be so…and what line could this possibly be on? It brings to question, is writer Joe Kerry going for an existential feel or hinting that something is happening outside that is bigger than the pair in the carriage? This question is left unanswered, with the final twist making it feel like the answer probably is neither – which leaves a perplexing and disappointing feel in the air.
If the conflicting aspects of the production are dismissed, the magnetism of the two actors, alongside comments on how difficult it is to live as a young person in London are really profound. Rachel’s struggle between following her passion or getting a good job and the waves of loneliness of non-native Londoners will hit home for many young people. The message from her mum beautifully touches a nerve, and it is scenes like this that are where Kerry’s writing is radiant.
With some fine tuning, this could be a play for our times and encourage Londoners to reevaluate the value of new interactions away from technology. Hopefully this production will continue to develop to fully live up to its moments of pathos.