Take Two Every Four Hours

Sat 6th – Sun 14th August 2011

reviews

sophie ainscough

at 10:21 on 13th Aug 2011

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Written and performed by Henry Regan and Ross Stanley, Take Two Every Four Hours offers its audience a moving insight into the numbing oppression of life with a deadline. The light-hearted banter between the pair is such that you would expect to overhear from any two eighteen year olds, except for the fact that for James and Freddy it must be contained within four walls.

Their surroundings are formed by a black backdrop, contrasting sharply with the startling white sheets of the two hospital beds the pair occupy, and the clinically white drawers between them piled with books. In such an environment the at times stifling need to share and know everything lingers beneath their exchange of comic quips and anecdotes, striking sporadically to the surface in bursts of raw emotion.

This is a life where throwing juggling balls counts as exercise, where the excitement of finishing a book is something to be shared (or withheld) and everything, even going to the toilet, is a test of strength, with ‘getting out’ forming the ultimate. The longing to be perceived as ordinary and healthy, instead of sick, potentially contagious and set apart from and slowly forgotten by the outside world, a patient instead of a person, is poignantly striking. The extraordinary realism of the script and acting makes the audience a third party in the pair’s co-dependent relationship, something which is fully believable, spirited and filled with the spark of youthful energy despite the uncertainty of how long life will last. For James and Freddy death is a thought which can creep up at any moment, yet for us it is batted away until the close of the play. Distractions are offered by the humorous trivialities of thinking up pranks, dreaming about nurse Reed, who never appears on stage, and ultimately by each other, providing in a strange, touching way the “time of their life” for one another, despite the fear that maybe one day one will wake up, and the other will not.

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Harriet Baker

at 10:26 on 13th Aug 2011

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The annexe of Paradise in the Vault is the perfect setting for Regan and Stanley’s play; claustrophobic and with no suggestion of time or light outside. The audience sits through a very simple play; two hospital beds divided on stage by a small chest of drawers, and an hour of conversation between two young men. Both James (Ross Stanley) and Freddy (Henry Regan) are almost completely confined to their beds, Freddy recovering from major heart surgery whilst James faces the fate of the terminally ill.

It is superb in its simplicity; conversation flickers between sexual banter about Nurse Reed and the desire to escape. James reflects on childhood memories outside of the hospital, of illness-free days of football and girls, whilst Freddy regards his illness as something that makes him contagious, always an outsider. Both desperately long to return to the world outside of the hospital. They discuss whether or not to escape, with the assistance of disguises and wheelchairs. As these fantasies gain momentum, Freddy says, “Go to the toilet and come back.” James cannot. It becomes apparent that whilst the mind is limitless the body is trapped; that the biggest ideas are created and played with, and yet the simplest movements and tasks are the most difficult. The ill are cast in their own hospital environment, separated from the land of the living. They are bed-bound, able only to run through pranks and mock each other about their juggling abilities and toilet habits. The humour of the play renders it sincere; it is the binding agent and at times it is very, very funny. The play experiments with ideas of what is internal and external, what is said and what is always left unsaid. Only in the closing moments of the play do we hear what has previously been left unspoken; James’ fear of his approaching death, and the profound understanding and affection that exists between the two men.

Regan and Stanley perform this with apparent ease, they have taken a relaxed attitude to the dialogue but this only enhances the play’s purpose and simplicity. This is a raw and brilliant production; a simple piece weaving together the pain of illness, the fear of death, and yet the strength of youth and friendship.

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