EFR - Reviews of Now Until The Hour

Now Until The Hour

Wed 6th – Sun 10th August 2014

reviews

Tom Gellatly

at 17:25 on 10th Aug 2014

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In Now Until the Hour, Jacquie Crago plays Mary, the receptionist at an anonymous institution, and a woman who is so captivatingly unsure of her own past, present and future that she can turn her mediations on these topics into one of the most thrilling, disturbing and utterly brilliant hours on stage I’ve ever paid witness to.

The play takes the form of one long monologue delivered by Mary, as she flits around in front of the desk from which she is doing conspicuously little work as a receptionist. She begins bewilderingly, talking about the deadliness of hippos as compared to lions, a boy from her school who kept a severed doll’s head upon his person at all times, her father, and her time at Oxford. These disparate narrative threads slowly begin to intertwine and mesh as the production progresses, and the play morphs from the gently humorous, engaging and scattered thoughts of an older woman into the desperate, too-little-too-late examination of a human being’s deeply profound sense of regret and ‘might have beens.’

Crago is absolutely sensational, and equally devastating, as the tragically nostalgic Mary, deftly displaying her ability as both a great comedic actor and an utterly heart-breaking dramatic one. Her complete embodiment of the character is quite something to behold, as her infectious enthusiasm for her favourite things – her joy at remembering the ‘spacious’ word ‘labyrinthine’ will make you wish for a Jacquie Crago-narrated Oxford English Dictionary edition – is equally as empathetic as her raw, harrowing breakdown towards the production’s close, prompted by a questionnaire she has to hand out which becomes a regular feature and touchstone of the play.

There are mysteries afoot through Now Until the Hour, such as the disembodied voice which interjects with an ominous ‘Mary!’ at numerous points throughout the play – is this her father? Her subconscious? The boy with the doll’s head from her past? These questions, and many more besides, are not even remotely answered by the end, but this merely adds to its allure. The atmosphere which the excellent script and Crago’s astonishing performance thereof creates if often a genuinely chilling one, with the sparse audio effects and deliciously unsettling enigmas which populate the play’s traditional ‘plot’ helping to propagate an air of distinct unease.

Overall, Now Until the Hour is a complete tour-de-force of what great theatre is all about in virtually every respect. Crago delivers a once in a lifetime performance which nearly reduced the audience in our showing to tears by the play’s close, and the production as a whole is one which will linger in the viewer’s mind for a long, long time after its chilling conclusion.

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Marnie Langeroodi

at 10:19 on 11th Aug 2014

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‘Now Until the Hour’ is a lyrical dramatic monologue written by David K. O’Hara and performed by Jacquie Crago as Mary.

Crago is wonderful; her portrayal is utterly real, so much so that we feel that we are part of a conversation with her. It’s tempting to answer her desperate questions – I found myself nodding in response. A voice says “Mary” every now and again – disturbing, and causing moments of hysteria in sudden crescendo. This happens several times yet it’s always as surprising as the first.

Mary is almost continually occupied with the past. At first the telephone brings us back to the present but eventually even the persistent ring is overridden.

The script works so that even the most trivial is heightened to great symbolic significance. We are hanging on to every word, trying to gather hints and decipher clues. Everything appears to have a double meaning. O’Hara’s script is moving, especially when Mary describes the death of her father in terms of the weather, senses, the light on the wall. At other times her memories are shocking, even gruesome.

As an audience we have so many questions and are waiting for them all to come together. Information slowly trickles through. Who’s calling on the telephone? Why can’t she face the caller? Where is she working? Is she working at all? It’s worth seeing this show twice to clarify one’s understanding of it.

As Mary recounts her life stories, relationships and an intimate encounter with a stranger, I almost wondered: ‘why are you letting us in and telling us all these things?’ We are the non-judgemental listeners exposed to Mary’s sense of shame, her need to justify everything and the emotion weight she carries.

I relished every moment of this performance and I could sit for hours listening to Crago embody O’Hara’s troubled character.

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