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Time and Tide, Park Theatre London

INDIE PURCELL recommends a new play depicting the lives within a crumbling community dealing with change

JAMES McDERMOTT’S charming new play Time and Tide picks apart the lives of a small community in Norfolk, coming to terms with, or struggling to face, change.

Set in a small, run-down cafe at the end of Cromer pier (an authentic and realistic set design by Caitlin Abbott), McDermott’s own experiences of working in a cafe in Norfolk helped him develop his storyline and characters, spending his days “watching people and listening to what they weren’t saying to each other which taught me lots about human interaction and subtext,” he tells us in the author’s note.

It’s not a particularly unusual story — young cafe worker Nemo, who is gay, is leaving Norfolk for the bright lights and sights of London. His boss May, a surrogate mother figure, is toying with the idea of selling up her cafe as customers turn to Costa and other chain coffee places, while Nemo’s best friend Daz is finding it hard to accept that Nemo’s leaving — more, as we find out in the second half of the play, than he’s willing to admit.

It’s a poignant story, representing the crumbling of England’s seaside towns, where big chain stores are swallowing up the smaller, independent, but more community-based shops, pubs and cafes. 

What’s most striking about the play is the incredibly strong cast, who really hold the whole thing together. Wendy Nottingham is spot on as cafe owner May, who’s bravely facing the fact that she’ll have to sell up and move on, while Elliot Liburd has just the right amount of energy, bravado and pathos to play macho and sentimental Daz and Josh Barrow is credible as Nemo, the young and naive waiter who’s too scared to online date (“I might get killed”) but desperate to move out of Cromer and change his mundane life.

Another delightful play to come out of Park Theatre. Catch it if you can.

Runs until February 29.

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