Tryst is a two-handed play performed by two very accomplished actors, which is so well acted and directed, it could easily be a West End show. It’s dark, unpredictable and keeps you guessing right to the bombshell of an ending, at which point you find, to your consternation, that it’s based on a true story.
Set in Victorian England, a conman sets out to find his latest victim – a vulnerable woman with a nest egg, to marry, rob and abandon. That much is explained in the first two minutes, so I am giving nothing away here, as the conman, played by Fred Perry, makes an opening address to the audience outlining his plan and explaining his modus operandi. The play is partly dialogue and partly narrated by him.
His victim, played by Scarlett Brookes, is a shop girl, tired of living at home with her parents, and having to work in the back room of the milliner’s shop because she’s plain looking and shy. It’s painful to watch how easily she falls for his charm and patter, but as events progress it emerges that she’s not so daft. She turns out to be more feisty than he expects. Not only that but through her probing we find out that he is more vulnerable than he first seems. Both actors make their characters utterly believable and they keep up the pace with perfect timing.
I went on Friday night, Gala night, when the patrons of the newly rebranded theatre were in attendance, along with some well-known guests. Broadcaster Jeremy Vine told me the production was “great, wonderful, top notch; a suspenseful classic that left you wanting to know more”(about the real story). Good enough, he said, that it could easily be a West End production.
Jeremy’s wife and fellow broadcaster Rachel Vine said it was “very clever, the way it messes with your mind. You think ‘Oh understand what this is’ and then it changes. You think you’ve nailed it, then there’s another twist, right to the end.
Actor Phyllis Logan also thought the production was “terrific”. The actors gave “two wonderful performances. The characters’ emotions spin on a sixpence and they kept you guessing all the way”. She also praised the “very slick” direction.
Phyllis is now a patron of the theatre, a role which she is very proud to take on, she told me, as we are so fortunate to have a local theatre. Torin Douglas MBE has also been made a patron. He opened the evening by welcoming the audience with a reminder of what a rich theatre heritage there is in this area, with previous theatres, and famous actors and playwrights such as John Osborne having lived and worked in Chiswick.
Tryst, written by Karoline Leach and directed by Phoebe Barran, is on at the Chiswick Playhouse until 29 February. I urge you to go and see it. But if you do, don’t Google the story before you go!