Expectations, Theatre N16

Tate and Max live in Tate’s nan’s flat above The Bedford pub in Balham. They’re awkward, posh boys with little life experience, though they’d like to believe otherwise. When Tate brings Billie, a woman twice their age who falls in the pub, upstairs to get cleaned up, her carefree spirit captivates the two lads. Billie rents their spare room, resulting in learning experiences for the three and their travelling housemate who returns unannounced. In Matilda Curtis’ first full-length play, there’s an interesting premise but the follow through is weak. With underdeveloped and underplayed characters, the full potential for both comedy and conflict is present, but Curtis sticks too close to the mundanity of real life, preventing the idea from developing into a truly compelling story.

Of the cast of four, Dan Furlonger as socially inept to the point of autistic Tate is excellent. Furlonger captures Tate’s emotional turmoil and various levels of discomfort with empathy and ease, and he has a more pronounced journey than the others. Curtis has invested more depth and internal conflict in the character. In contrast, Billie has the potential to be a disruptive, life changing force for better or worse, but this power is denied her. Denise Stephenson does her best to inject the character with life, but the noncommittal, conversational dialogue lacks punch. Laddish Max is a dull stereotype with little emotional depth, and Evie (sensitively played by Adele James) is also not provided with the opportunity for profound change. The lack of character development and mostly flat narrative arc is incredibly frustrating, but easily changed with a script overhaul.

Director Grace Joseph uses the irregularly-shaped room well, and her set has some lovely details that accurately reflect a posh nan’s flat that hasn’t changed in decades. She has a good instinct for pace and timing in naturalistic work, but the final sequence feels forced – though this could be a script issue as well.

Expectations shows good potential; Joseph is a competent early-career director with a good instinct for space and casting. Curtis clearly has good ideas, but her execution needs refining. It’s a good attempt from emerging artists, but not a great one.

Expectations runs through 28th July.

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