There's something deeply troubling at the heart of this double bill of solo plays by Simon Stephens, which say much about the nation's love/hate relationship with the capital city.
The first, T5, finds a woman in a hotel bedroom on the run from the crime scene she's just witnessed, but unable to flee completely from the responsibilities she's left behind. The second, Seawall, follows a shaggy dog story told by a man who seems to have everything, right through to the holiday accident that changed everything.
The plays have appeared separately in different productions during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Seen together in George Perrin's touring production for Paines Plough – in association with Live Theatre, Newcastle and Salisbury Playhouse – these beautifully written studies of urban neuroses and everyday tragedy form a complimentary whole made even more powerful by the way in which each story is told.
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The Woman in T5's interior monologue is heard by the audience through headphones as she plays out her anxiety on a careful reconstruction of a bland hotel room. For Seawall, the stage is stripped bare and the audience exposed to the harsh glare of unadorned light.
With both together clocking in at just under an hour, the plays may be brief, but Stephens and Perrin pack more sense of unease into them than many full-length works can muster. While Abby Ford, as the Woman in T5, is a restless figure, seemingly in disguise, Cary Crankson as Alex in Seawall is so laid-back that the play's conclusion is even more shocking as a masterpiece of understatement.