This production forms part of the Tabard Theatre’s 30th birthday celebrations, and as a rumination on changes wrought by the passage of time, Simpatico is an excellent choice.
Vinnie (Stephen Chance) and Carter (Michael Lawrence-Killingbach) were best friends and betting partners. It’s been 15 years since an official, Simms (Edward Newborn), uncovered their dodgy dealings, leading them to set him up in a photographed liaison with Vinnie’s then-wife Rosie (Emmy Happisburgh) and blackmail him with snaps.
The years have been kindest to Carter: he’s driven off in Vinnie’s Buick with Rosie and made a fortune. Standing in Vinnie’s bedsit in a sharp suit and mock-croc shoes, he’s a man with everything to lose, whereas Vinnie lives out his days surrounded by mounds of unwashed laundry, nursing a bottle of Black Bush whiskey and occasionally poring over the photographs. Chance brings brilliant energy to Vinnie’s multi-faceted and entrenched resentment of Carter, at turns wheedling, stroppy, and endearingly incorrigible: “You’re not carrying a weapon again, are you?” “Only on dates!”
Carter’s polished exterior cracks as Vinnie wields the threat of exposure over him. Their dynamic smacks of The Prince and the Pauper, and indeed Carmen Mueck’s set and costume designs are handled cleverly: they swap clothes as the plot progresses, making increasingly loaded references to the interchangeability of their situations. Vinnie dons Carter’s jacket (which fits neither of them), Carter nurses Vinnie’s bottle of whiskey and wails into his sweaty bedclothes.
Despite the largely high quality of the acting, this production has imperfections. The devil is in the details: scene changes involve a lot of shuffling around to soft rock in dim red light and err more on the side of school play than film noir. Some of the accents are shaky, particularly in the first scene: Carter professes his familiarity with several of the United States and proceeds to drift between them indiscriminately. An enjoyable, energetic, but not ground-breaking production.
Simpatico is on at the Tabard Theatre, 2 Bath Rd, W4 1LW, until 26 September 2015. Tickets £17 (£15 concessions). Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.
By Rosalind Stone