Steven Berkoff’s plays are curious examinations of one couple’s relationship from when they first met, then fast forwarding to twenty years later but strongly brought to life by Emily Bruni and Shaun Dooley’s performances. 

lunch-1-shaun-dooley-and-emily-bruni-photo-marc-brenner
Emily Bruni and Shaun Dooley. (c)Marc Brenner. 

There is no doubting that Nigel Harman’s production of these two quirky Steven Berkoff plays flow with ease, allowing the poetic language to take centre stage but equally, it exposes the flaws of the plays which don’t have much depth and are surprisingly impersonal, despite the set up being intimate and the plot centred on a tense relationship.

However, the performances of Emily Bruni and Shaun Dooley complement each other perfectly to show the pain and humour in the most intimate relationship that a human can be a part of. Known purely as Woman and Man, each share their frustrations with their lives and each other having expected more out of life – something that is made clear at the beginning of their relationship and doesn’t change in the twenty years that pass.

Shaun Dooley’s performance is filled with energy and passion that is electrifying to watch, seeing his frustration at what life has dealt him and his growing frustration towards Woman is wonderfully intensified. In contrast to this, Emily Bruni’s performance is cool measured and is almost resigned to this way of life that she has accepted.

Although the language is poetic and flows with ease, the style takes some time to get used to and can be slightly tedious and frustrating in understanding the character’s motivations as well as slowing the pace of the show down.

Nigel Harman’s production is sharp, intense and focused that it is compelling to watch – it is just a shame that the plays themselves are such hard work and difficult to appreciate.

The production is worth seeing for Bruni and Dooley’s performances alone but it is not an easy watch and requires a lot of concentration.

Lunch and The Bow of Ulysses will play at the Trafalgar Studios until the 5th November. To book tickets visit: ATG Tickets, Ticketmaster.co.uk, Discount Theatre.com, Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk, Love Theatre.com, Theatre People.com and UK Tickets.co.uk

Rating: ❤❤❤

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