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Tryst is a compelling two hander that starts in Edwardian London with the charming con artist George happening upon a wet behind the ears milliner Adelaide. These two souls at the bottom of life’s ladder meet on the sales floor of a hat shop, both looking for a lift up. Here they are in an old fashioned setting exploring timeless issues that have weaved into their relationship. The balance of power moves back and forth over the course of ninety minutes as lies, love and money spill across the honeymoon suite.

In the early stages the actors narrate the sum of their lives thus far and the differing perceptions of the circumstances of their meeting. Fred Perry gives George enough charm so he can winkle out the humour from his harsh lifestyle, tricking women into marriage and handing over their savings so he can disappear and survive for another few months. Adelaide feels hidden away and Scarlett Brookes imbues her with an endearing fidgety awkwardness. She lives in a time when a woman’s position in society is growing stronger and she is excited by the things she could have, her own business or a holiday in Venice.

This odd couple dig deeper into each other in a hotel room in Weston-Super-Mare. The threat of sex hangs in the air but body image issues get in the way. Karoline Leach’s deft script delves into the sharp realities of their divergent pasts and the possibilities of a shared future. As Adelaide reveals how her life has been controlled by her father, George’s smarmy posh mask starts to slip.

Here are two knotty characters fighting each other to help each other as both actors move easily from positions of strength to weakness. There are moments of truth, new card games to play and arguments to be fought. The stage is a simple cube filled with old chests that move to create a dining room or bed, and curtains pulled aside to reveal a hat stand, fireplace and antique bath. An absorbing piece which takes the audience back in time to a smaller world run by nasty men with women looking over their shoulder for a piece of the action.

★★★

Tryst is on at the Chiswick Playhouse until 29 February 2020

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