Same Time, Next Year | Review | e.g. Productions, Market Harborough

e.g. Productions present a unique dinner-theatre experience at The Oat Hill in Market Harborough, with Bernard Slade’s “Same Time, Next Year”

The premise of Same Time, Next Year is simple – a man and woman, both married, accidentally begin an affair that sees them meeting in the same hotel on the same weekend each year. Throughout 6 scenes, across 25 years, we play witness to dramatic changes in society, changes in their own outlooks on life, and watch them share their triumphs and tragedies in their “real lives” outside the ever constant hotel suite.

The play starts with George (Nick Potts) waking up in panic, realising that there’s someone else sharing his bed – Doris (Sarah Whitehouse). There’s the obligatory “morning after” polite chit-chat and awkward conversation before it becomes apparent that neither of them wants this to be a one night stand, but both care too much about their families for it to be anything more serious. There’s something quite surreal about the moment they share pictures of their children with each other – both so proud of their family life but tangled up in their instant, and passionate, connection.

Sex is an ongoing theme, but their conversations are what prove their intimacy. They discuss their upbringing, how they deal with their guilt, and always share one good story and one bad story about their spouses each time they meet. Doris’ relationship with husband Harry seems well grounded, Whitehouse plays her with a faraway look in her eye each time she recites a “good story”, while George’s marriage to Helen appears to be more stilted and less satisfying.

Both actors have a charming chemistry with each other, taking the characters gradually into the comfort of a long relationship. Their first encounters are passionate, but as the show progresses and Doris and George age, the haste of youth gives way to a gentle intimacy and familiarity. Their ageing is done subtly with physicality and costume – the grey streaks being progressively added to their hair was a nice touch too. Whitehouse and Potts have mastered their American accents, with neither of them wavering throughout. They also both exuded a huge amount of energy and emotion in every scene, with their skill really shining in the more emotional and sadder moments, but also displaying some superb comic timing.

Costume is the key to the “time travel” of the production – the hotel room, as hotel rooms often do, remains much the same throughout – with only the bedsheet and drinks glasses changing to signify the movement of time – while the costumes take the audience straight into each time period. Doris’ demure 1950’s skirt and shirt give way to a party dress and bleached ‘do, before even more dramatic changes into the 60s and 70s. Perhaps it would have been a nice touch to have a few changes to the decor to help drive home the changing timeframe besides the throw on the bed, but the static design of the hotel room did reiterate the fact that, despite them having grown outside their relationship, they always came back to the same place – the two of them alone, in love, and feeling guilty about it. Set between 40 and 60 years ago, Same Time, Next Year runs the risk of feeling dated, but it has been avoided here – with the exception of mentions of the Vietnam war, and some American political debate, it felt timeless.

The challenge of outdoor theatre is that of scene changes – without a curtain or blackout to hand, the end of each scene can prove to be difficult to mark. The end of the first scene here did feel a little clunky, but as it’s still light outside it’s almost impossible to do anything about it – both Whitehouse and Potts immediately snapped out of character as the music came up and directly walked off stage. This did work, on the whole, but was definitely more effective once it was darker. It would be interesting to see how this is handled once it takes to the Bonkers stage in Kettering later in the year. 

You could spend time moralising about the content – an affair will always be a complicated and controversial topic after all – but Same Time, Next Year felt more like a glimpse into a connection, and one the audience was rooting for. It feels odd to be on the side of the cheating couple, but witnessing their sincere, if adulterous, relationship truly left you hoping that, while they’d not leave their partners, they’d manage to keep their yearly meetings going.

The Dinner Theatre experience itself was lovely – the staff at The Oat Hill were wonderfully friendly and helpful, and the food was delicious. It was certainly a change to be sat out in the open to enjoy a nice meal, and then an entertaining performance, rather than be in a darkened room to see something! Especially nice at this time of year too – if a little cold! The staff were on hand with blankets (but it’s worth taking something warm to wear!)

Same Time, Next Year was a well performed and very entertaining production – sparkling with wit and equal parts moving and amusing. Wonderful performances from Whitehouse and Potts absolutely make this a delightful evenings’ entertainment.

Same Time, Next Year continues at The Oat Hill until Saturday 9 June 2018. They will also head to Kibworth Grammar School on 15th June, before reaching Bonkers Playhouse, Kettering, on the 22-23 June. Please note, only the evening Oat Hill dates include a three-course meal – the matinee performance is £25 and includes a BBQ Buffet, and all other performances are £15 each.