LONDON Classic Theatre rarely disappoint as a touring company – they take much-loved plays which could do with a dust off, direct and cast them well and head off on the high road.
It’s good to see them back after the Covid lockdowns of the past two years with a 2022 tour of the Tony-winning ‘Same Time Next Year’ by Bernard Slade. It is a splendid choice and a beautifully crafted production, which opened last night at Malvern.
This is a ‘rom-com with a bite’ two-hander, concerning an affair, which starts one February day in 1951 and as far as we can glean, continues in perpetuity. The twist is that our star-crossed lovers, Doris and George, are actually in love with their real life spouses but in lust with each other.
They meet by chance whilst both staying at a country inn somewhere in northern California, several hundred miles in opposite directions from their respective homes. We first meet them in bed the morning after they have committed adultery three times in one night.
There are no guilty repercussions – just a wallow in the magic of the encounter. They make a pact to come back the same time the following year for a rematch. In between time there is to be no contact between them.
We rejoin them five years later in the same guest cottage in the same country inn. Both were amazed that the other turned up on the first anniversary but from that point on it really is ‘Same Time Next Year’. Five years in and it seems the spark has turned to an Olympic flame.
There are two acts and six chronological scenes, each one self-contained and refreshed as we share Doris and George’s once-a-year journey over 25 years of their anniversaries.
We learn not only about their families and lives outside of this annual carnal pleasure trip, but also how America society and attitudes are changing.
Sarah Kempton and Kieran Buckeridge play Doris and George – and a joyous couple of performances they dish up. Both are believable and immensely watchable – they’re a hardworking duo too, performing all their own set and costume changes in addition to treading the boards.
Director Michael Cabot has done an excellent job in taking his cast on a near faultless journey.
A 25-year ageing process is a big ask but it never jars and is in fact a welcome little voyage of discovery to see how Doris and George are dressed each time the lights come up.
Bek Palmer’s set is perfect as the timeless hotel cottage – inviting bed, spacious lounge and it even has its own piano – I’d happily stay there.
This production of ‘Same Time Next Year’ is a warm and comfortable watch – it doesn’t set out to challenge, but rather to entertain. With its holiday feel about it, Malvern is an ideal venue to kick off the tour. It is always welcoming and so is this production.
You’re guaranteed to leave with a smile.
Same Time Next Year runs at Malvern Theatre until Saturday, January 29.
Click here for times, tickets and more information.