Tuesdays and Sundays is an old-fashioned play, in the most positive sense of that term. It pulls no tricks, deploys no gimmicks: it simply tells a tale of teenage love, a courtship carried out twice a week amidst the social and religious constraints of the late nineteenth century. It’s set in Margate – but not the one you’re thinking of. This Margate’s in a remote and snowy part of Prince Edward Island, on the east coast of the still-young Dominion of Canada.
Above all else, this is a superbly-executed piece of theatre. Some of the devices are a little clumsy – the physical actions are sometimes too literal, the staging occasionally turns to cliché – but actors Tom Everatt and Sam Kamras approach their roles with great sensitivity, as well as considerable precision. Their performance is complemented by some truly elegant imagery, built from simple chairs and guttering candles, which grounds the story firmly in a simpler age: a bygone time when men were “handsome” and women were expected to be coy.
Early on, it’s impossible not to enjoy the tale of stumbling, mannered young love, ably reflected by both performance and words. There are echoes of Cinderella as a clock strikes midnight, and the script contains a host of evocative details, from the description of snow settling on a bridge to the mention of rum punch on a character’s breath. It’s all very sweet and quaint; even the sex scene’s done with a waistcoat on.
Yet the plot soon turns to an equally buttoned-up kind of tragedy, as the inevitable falling-out occurs. The lovers share their secret pain with the audience, but never, ever with each other. And the story’s dramatic twist is suddenly and effectively revealed – paving the way for a much faster-paced finale, which combines still-lyrical description with some genuinely heart-pounding dialogue. It all builds towards an inevitable decision that will change two young lives forever.
Sadly however, strong production values can’t quite overcome a few oddities in the 15-year-old script. The storyline relies on the young lovers being separated; the man essentially turns his back on the woman, an act of unintended cruelty which never quite made sense to me. And despite the fact the play is based around a true story, I also found the dark conclusion a little too hard to believe. Overall, I needed to understand more about the characters involved, before I was willing to accept such a sudden and dramatic departure from what we’d seen them do before.
It’s also worth asking just why we’re telling this story now. Is it an insight into days gone by? A knowing parallel with modern life? A reminder of just how far we’ve come? None of those thoughts quite comes through in this production, and so, what ought to be a thought-provoking tale becomes all too easy to skip lightly by.
Despite these reservations, Tuesday and Sundays remains a powerful and (mostly) charming story, that’s beautifully and stylishly told. Period drama’s alive and well at the Fringe – and with this show, Theatrum Veritatus prove the next generation have it in safe hands.