Personally, I love a thriller and feel absolutely delighted that Tabard Theatre are showing TRYST, in the first London revival for 20 years. Our patron Susan Penhaligon starred with Paul Nicholas in the West End premiere of this play in 1997 before it opened on Broadway (2006).
Now Natasha J Barnes, who famously stepped in to play the role of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl at short notice, is starring in this electrifying new revival of the show. Natasha, would have been just seven years old when it was last seen in London, and has never seen the show unlike her co-star Fred Perry. He saw the original version when it toured 20 years ago to Thorndike Theatre in Leatherhead.
“It is a very different take on the play”, recalls Fred, “but it has one of those things people really enjoy - a brilliant story. The moment the play starts it’s at a gallop, and then there are all sorts of twists and turns. I remember it from the day I saw it, quite graphically, and I can’t say that about every play I’ve seen.”
Natasha sees it as “a hidden gem”, and she is “excited to be sharing it with more people in this generation”. When Natasha first read the script she couldn’t take her eyes off it until she’d “devoured the whole thing; every time you peel off one layer, there’s a shocking change – it’s the full three courses”. She adds that the characters were “so well fleshed out and so identifiable”.
The story is all about a guy who takes on different personas to get
what he wants. Fred explains “He constantly changes from one side of his personality to another”. Whilst he is fascinated in the role, he certainly wouldn’t want to be like him. “He’s a fading philanderer and a bigamist who seduces women”.
Although it’s set in the Edwardian period, which effects the nature of
the characters and relationships, it doesn’t affect the course of the
play. “It’s easy to imagine finding yourself in the same situation
today” says Fred.
The success of the play depends on how the actors work together and how well they ‘get-on’ together because it is as much an emotional thriller as an action thriller. “It’s the chemistry between the two” says Fred, “and how closely the audience can identify with them”.
Natasha recalls how her and Fred read together in the audition process and were “immediately, thrown together to see what we did with it. It’s so important to get the relationship between the actors exactly right.”Along with the director, Phoebe Barran, they have been discovering more and more, about how this play works. Natasha grew up “loving plays” but found herself more involved in musical theatre. She loves thriller’s but this is a departure for her which poses fresh challenges. She says she “finds it exposing but its a good place to start”. She knows “you need command of story line and character in order to keep with the ‘twists and turns’, and to keep the audience with you and guessing until the final lines”.
Natasha is used to challenges, having taken over from Sheridan Smith in Funny Girl at The Savoy Theatre. It was her job as understudy but she didn’t even have time to have a proper run through before her debut. The critics were stunned. Borrowing Julian Marsh’s famous declaration to Peggy Sawyer in 42nd Street, the writer declared: “She may have gone out an understudy but she came back a star.”
Natasha says she “had a bit of busy year last year, it was my Cinderella story”. She already had a dream job having been picked as understudy but she didn’t really expect to go on, because “Sheridan was so incredibly resilient”. After playing “123 performances as the maid” she was enjoying learning the role of Fanny Brice. “It wasn’t ego, I love learning things” she explains. The director came into the dressing room and told Natasha she was going to play the role, with just half-an-hour notice. “I couldn’t remember how I’d done it the next morning” says Natasha, “then, I kept going and did more than 130 performances”. She had to learn very quickly “how to be a leading lady”.
This experience will come in handy with the demands of eight performances a week of this very tense thriller. “It’s relentless, you are on the train and you can’t get off until it stops” Natasha says, “you just get up in the morning and do it”.
They rely heavily on each other and, fortunately, the team is incredibly strong. “There has been a synergy from the very beginning” says Natasha and she mentions the set designer, the award-winning Max Dorey as an example. “He connects emotionally, relaying personal experiences with characters – that’s rare and it’s not just location but atmosphere. The whole thing becomes intertwined with the action and the set is as an integral part of the story.“
Tryst will be the first show in the 90-seat Tabard theatre since the venue was given a full refurbishment. This includes a front of house bar and comfortable new seats which are raked to give excellent sightlines. This is great news, because I for one will not want to miss one second of this show. Sitting with Natasha and Fred, they give off very good vibes and I can’t wait to see them performing the roles on stage.
Natasha J Barnes and Fred Perry were interviewed by Heather Jeffery, Editor of London Pub Theatres.
TRYST by Karoline Leach,
Tabard Theatre, Chiswick 12 October - 5 November 2017
Based on a true story, this tense drama tells of serial fraudster, George Love, who encounters a naïve and vulnerable shop-girl, Adelaide Pinchin. Seduced by his charm and elaborate stories of a life she’s never known, Adelaide agrees to run away with him in a secret tryst. What follows shocks them both as their plans begin to unravel in frightening and unpredictable ways.
The story begins as a romantic drama but soon evolves into a riveting thriller with a startling climax. Tryst is a tense, passion fuelled thriller which will stay with you long after the curtain comes down.
Creative team: Set and Costume Designer Max Dorey.
Lighting Designer Matt Drury. Sound Designer Dave McSeveny
All rights reserved: London Pub Theatres Magazine October 2017