Shell and Davey at the Start and the End, VAULT Festival

 

by guest critic Amy Toledano

One of the more traditional plays at the festival this year, Shell and Davey at the Start and the End is a gentle narrative focusing on our long-term relationships, and the consequences, both positive and negative, of those relationships being turned upside down.

Shell has lived alone for a long time, since the day her husband Davey was sentenced to ten years in prison. She has learnt to live alone, in many ways embracing it, spending her days running classes at the community hub or tending to her vegetable garden. With the love and support of friends, in particular the outrageous and genuine soul that is her neighbour Tina or more recently Chrissy, we see that Shell has grown to know and understand the person she is without Davey.

But today Davey is coming home. And while the street is buzzing with excitement, Shell is petrified. Chrissy does her best to help Shell calm herself down, taking her through the mantra they practice in their community courses, Davey has gotten in much earlier than they expected and it becomes apparent that both Shell and Davey aren’t really sure what to do.

This play, while at times slightly heavy on metaphor, definitely warms my heart and is able to convey what the characters want to say, even when there was nothing being said at all.

A particular stand-out is the hilarious and incredibly talented Carrie Rock as Chrissie. Her comedy chops are totally unbeatable, with her timing taking us from belly-busting laughter to heavy-eyed crying within a few moments of one another.

The circumstances of someone coming home from jail, and being welcomed wholeheartedly, is not one that is often explored in theatre, and Shell and Davey at the Start and the End is a quiet and honest look at these moments. The show feels like looking directly into the characters’ front room, and leaves me wanting to give them all the hug that they all deserve.

Shell and Davey at the Start and the End runs through 4 February.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

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