Get involved: Send your news, views, pictures and video by texting SUPIC to 80360 or email us.
Marine Parade, The Old Market, Hove, until May 23
When the burn rises from your behind you know you’ve been sitting too long. During Olivier award-winning Simon Stephens and American Music Club’s Mark Eitzel’s “play with music”, I twitched around the hour mark, 35 minutes before two other punters rushed out, the door slamming behind them perfectly in time, to the closing number’s refrain, “farewell”.
A chuckle swept through the room like an ill wind as the cast, band and crowd giggled together at another unplanned incident – the first was a kerfuffle featuring B&B owner Steve (Lee Ross) struggling to open a 1971 cabernet sauvignon – which gathered more laughs than much of the script.
In a story whose underdeveloped characters – of which there are four too many – have their unremarkable existences rendered inconsequential, such small pleasures seemed fitting.
Things begin with geezer-cum-charmer Steve’s cleaner, down-to-earth northern lass Sally (Kate O’Flynn), giving him a cat to fill the void when she departs to Newcastle to study. The other guests are introduced one by one, starting with Geordie Claire (Laura Elphinstone) who needs £2,000 from ex Chris (Arthur Darvill) who she’s not seen for six years.
“Can you still love someone if you can’t see them?” we are asked, before the show’s stars, Gary (Gareth Derrick) and Ellie (Cynthia Erivo), pictured, – two sweet but underage teenagers – capture all the nervy stumbling of young love in a captivating, often hilarious bedroom scene.
Then there is Michael (Michael Gould), still in love with former wife Emma who he ditched some 20 years ago, staying in the Victorian suite with Alison (Thusitha Jayasundera), a binging middle-aged alcoholic, whose flat acting might be better if more was made of their relationship.
Tucked away in the corner behind the B&B’s vending counter, Elvis Costello-alike Eitzel and his four-piece house band add little to the storytelling overall, but do offer the chance to showcase Ellie’s soaring vocals.
The story unfolds like a nostalgic love letter to Brighton, but is undone by its ambition to celebrate rather than reflect. Jobless and spineless old boy Archie’s (Jeff Rawle) pompous cynicism fuels the best lines as he delivers a soliloquy about life and love to Steve. It is the human ability to choose, he says, to override instinct, which sets us apart from animals.
In the final scene, Steve conquers his rationale and bids Sally a loving adieu after 24 hours in which little of any substance happens.
Call 01273 709709