Written by Douglas Thomson
Directed by Sarah Mason
We’ve all done it, right, wake up with a raging hangover, not entirely sure of where we are and how we got there? Not sure how many of us have awoken in a Budapest airport, but I’m confident at least two of us have. For Tony, this nightmare doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. Separated from his friends, no phone, no food and to top it all off, a ludicrously cheerful, chatty Mel won’t leave him alone.
A play of two-parts, Douglas Thomsom’s Arrivals is in part, an exceptionally subtle and well-written production which strays into a wholly different piece, revealing all which it had kept secret. As Mel persists in bugging Tony, he begins to question the events of the evening, and just why the airport seems empty. As this comedy twists, concerns grow as darkness creeps in.
It’s remarkable what an inventive director can do with two-suitcases and versatile performers. You don’t need bells & whistles when you can gain all the humour you require from delivery and prop usage. Sarah Masson allows Bradley & Cameron to run with their roles, which drives a tremendous amount of characterisation as the production progresses. The pair reach peaks, banging on suitcases, frantically attempting to open them or simply karting around.
Counterbalancing one another, Hannah Bradley and Johnny Cameron accentuate each other’s performance. As Bradley’s mischievous Mel grows in irritability, it grinds Tony’s (Cameron) nerves every-more. As aggressive as Cameron becomes, we understand his frustrations as they are built over-time and not sudden. Bradley’s Mel is as adorably investing as she is utterly unbarring, a tremendous compliment to her performance capabilities. There isn’t a delivery which falls flat, each joke hits the mark, even if some are less successful than others.
Thomson’s script shifts itself from all-out comedy, into an area of poignancy. Not inherently a weak move, it’s the neck-breaking turn into this which sits poorly. So far, Arrivals has been a keen, crafty text which contains hints of the lurking sub-text, which audiences will puzzle over, drawing their conclusions. There seems to either be a fear they won’t reach the correct one, or a need to drive in metaphorical clout.
A true testament to direction and performance, this simply doesn’t impact the overall quality a great deal. Bradley and Cameron sell, with conviction, the descent into an obvious ending with mirth. Its once, simple, well-written wit is muddied with an about-face. It’s a bold move, and the ending has a final knife twist, though overall Arrivals is a finely directed, performance-driven piece with solid humour.