So You Say

‘ … a pared-down, carefully crafted duet of perspectives … ‘

So You Say

Written and directed by Sam Chittenden

A Different Theatre production

Rialto Theatre, Brighton

Fifteen years is a long time, but when exes Ollie and Jennifer finally meet again, the box opens and the memories flood out.

Only a couple knows exactly what happened in a relationship breakup. Of course, each has their own point of view – and will then filter and present that to suit themselves. In ‘So You Say’, writer-director Sam Chittenden presents a pared-down, carefully crafted duet of perspectives.

The play is a study in awkward exchanges by two people who don’t really talk to each other about anything important with any sense of ease, while inconsequential details can take on the greatest emotional importance and depth.

Chittenden’s writing contrasts deceptively simple, chatty dialogue with some clever devices. The actors play out the same conversation in different ways, address the audience and speak in unison in a running commentary on state of mind and point of view.

Individually, Russell Shaw’s Ollie stumbles through the awkward encounter with a clumsy tenderness, an endearing contrast to Charly Sommers’ neat, precise presence as Jennifer. Together they deliver flashes of rage and old hurts, jabs and provocations, an underlying surge of the old attraction tempered with glimpses of fond comfort and relaxed silliness. It’s all very relateable.

Simple staging with two chairs in a black box, naturalistic dialogue and performances pitched at a conversational level and volume mean the piece is well suited to the most intimate of small spaces.

The Rialto’s cabaret seating encourages a sense that we’re on the sofa watching TV, with some rueful recognition and even a few audible audience remarks as a line strikes home.

But in the end, whose fault was it? It just doesn’t matter – and we’re left with a cautiously guarded sense of optimism.

The play script is available to buy at the venue.

Next dates: The Camden Festival

Venue: Tristan Bates (1A Tower Street, WC2H 9NP London, United Kingdom)

Dates: August 15-19 18.15

Philippa Hammond

Sussex Playwrights