Theatre review: Crouch End and Upminster collide in modern love story


Beginning follows the blossoming romance between Danny and Laura - Credit: Queen's Theatre Hornchurch

As the curtains draw on Beginning, a scene we’re all too familiar with plays out on stage.

Empty bottles and pizza boxes litter the floor, cheap fluorescent bunting droops from the ceiling, and you can almost smell the lingering odour of stale beer and sweaty bodies. 

Among the housewarming party’s carcass sits Laura, who has recently moved to Crouch End, and straggler Danny, who failed to join his friends in the taxi home. 

From the word go, the chemistry between the pair is clear and the sole two cast members artfully carry the audience through the genesis of a modern love affair. 


Amanda Ryan and Simon Darwen play love interests Laura and Danny - Credit: Queen's Theatre Hornchurch

In real time, Beginning portrays two strangers living in opposite ends of London who find themselves hopelessly drawn to one another, despite their different personalities, lifestyles and upbringings. 

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Laura, played by Amanda Ryan, oozes self-confidence. Yet, as the story unravels, so too do her insecurities - has she prioritised her career over starting a family? Will she reach 40 without having children of her own? 

Danny (Simon Darwen) is in many ways her polar opposite - painfully self-conscious, his unease is palpable as he splutters and stumbles over his words. 

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He stands by the kitchen, fumbles in the fridge, perches on the sofa, before leaping up to clean up the chaos left behind from the party. 

What playwright David Eldridge, who grew up just around the corner from Danny’s home in Upminster Bridge, portrays so well is the trials of beginning a relationship and being dragged down by your own baggage. 

Bringing his script to life, Ryan and Darwen keep the audience hooked as they banter, argue, over-share and fall in love. 

The play also picks up on subtle snobberies that continue to prevail - Laura makes fun of Danny's Essex accent while he makes a dig about the cost of her Crouch End flat.


The pair find themselves alone in Laura's Crouch End flat - Credit: Queen's Theatre Hornchurch

The set deserves a shout out in its own right; complete with a pokey kitchen, sparsely-stocked fridge and real oven (perfect for making fish finger sandwiches), it truly feels as though the audience are guests in Laura’s brand-new home. 

Reviving the National Theatre's production of Beginning, Queen's Theatre Hornchurch does not disappoint with this poignant commentary on the insecurities of contemporary dating.

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