As I sat down on my couch and tuned into the live streamed production of ‘Hello and Goodbye’, I was quite curious about how this would play out. A television production and theatrical production are remarkably different, so trying to do both is quite a challenge.
When the lights go up, we are greeted to a shabby living room that looks like it hasn’t been cleaned in years. It’s clear that whoever lives here hasn’t got a lot of money or is extremely lazy – or perhaps both? The window netting is torn and the walls are stained. One of the first things to grab my attention is the hole in the wall that appears to be in the shape of Africa. It is soon confirmed that the play is set in South Africa in the 1960s. Set designers; Caitlin Mills and Lee Ward have done a fantastic job in capturing the essence of the era.
The play is a two-hander with siblings Johnnie (Danny Solomon) and Hester (Hannah Ellis Ryan) Smits. Johnnie’s opening monologue indicates that he is clearly suffering some sort of mental health issues, perhaps PTSD? However, his ramblings are interrupted by the unexpected arrival of his sister; Hester. It becomes apparent that Hester has been away from the family home in Port Elizabeth for quite some time, as Johnnie doesn’t recognise her and asks her to prove who she is. But that then raises the question – why has Hester returned after so long? She claims to be there to claim her share of their father’s compensation for a workplace accident, but there’s much more to it than that.
With this being a dramatic two-hander and both characters being on stage for pretty much the duration of the play, there is literally nowhere to hide for the actors. Both Solomon and Ellis Ryan do a fantastic job portraying their characters. Although physically quite tall, Solomon brings a naive quality to Johnnie, which is quite appropriate given his inability to let go of the past. On the other hand, Ellis Ryan portrays Hester as rather bullish on the surface, however as the play progresses, we witness some vulnerability underneath it all.
I must admit I did find the play quite difficult to get into at first. However, I feel that was more due to the script itself rather than this production. Hello and Goodbye certainly isn’t an easy watch. However, if you stick with it then you do become invested in the characters and want to know what the next stage of their journey is.
Hello and Goodbye by Elysium Theatre Company is available to stream until 1st July 2021 – https://www.queenshall.co.uk/events/hello-and-goodbye
Reviewer: Brian Madden
Reviewed: 27th June 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★