Cromer Pier, Norfolk. It’s home to the Pavilion Theatre; the famous end of pier show; and, in Park Theatre’s Time and Tide, May’s caff. The golden age of the seaside resort is sadly a thing of the past and the coastal town is changing, with fat cat chains putting local shops out of business, to the dismay of delivery man Ken (Paul Easom). But May (Wendy Nottingham) herself is thinking of selling up and moving to Suffolk to live with her friend. Her young employee Nemo (Josh Barrow), who is openly gay, is off to start a new life in London as he begins his drama degree, while Nemo’s best friend Daz (Elliot Liburd) isn’t too happy about it and is struggling with some issues of his own.
James McDermott’s latest play, produced by Relish Theatre in conjunction with the Park Theatre and developed as part of the Park’s Script Accelerator Programme, is a warm, touching look at a community struggling to cope with change. McDermott is based in East Anglia and his experience of growing up in the area shines through in his script which, although occasionally predictable, is full of charm and wit. There are plenty of comical scenes throughout, but these are interspersed with moments of tenderness and angst, resulting in a believable story. His characters could all too easily become stereotypical Norfolk folk but McDermott has created four very recognisable and human individuals. May, a former dancer and huge Bette Davies enthusiast, has spent time nursing her sick mother and now has the chance to find happiness. She’s caught the eye of bread man Ken who, when he’s not busy berating the likes of “Pret a Manager” and Nandos, is kicking back and watching Diagnosis Murder. Nemo, like most teenagers his age, is hesitant about taking the big step of moving away to university, but he’s upset that his unrequited love Daz didn’t show for his leaving party, while Daz is angry that his friend is moving on and wants a different life without him. The dialogue between the characters is real and unpretentious – this is a play about working class people and the dialogue reflects this effectively.
With a convincing script from McDermott and strong direction from Rob Ellis, Time and Tide is a smooth production which flows well and avoids any moments of lagging. Designer Caitlin Abbott has done a brilliant job, making the most of the space in Park90 to create a detailed set full of nostalgia, with photos of Bette Davies dotted on the walls, sticks of rock on the counter, plastic gingham table covers and even a multi-coloured insect door screen. The set, coupled with Fizz Margereson’s sound design, is sure to transport anyone who spent their summers holidaying along the coast back in time the moment they enter May’s caff. Martha Godfrey’s lighting design is equally effective, particularly when a storm hits the coastline.
There may be one or two slightly questionable Norfolk accents among the cast, but they’re instantly forgiven thanks to the quality of acting. There’s no weak link in the ensemble, with each actor bringing something slightly different to the play. Wendy Nottingham exudes warmth as May, a caring mother figure to both Nemo and Daz; while Paul Easom injects added humour into the piece as the lovesick Ken, his comic timing spot on (even if Ken does turn up at the most inconvenient moments). Josh Barrow puts in a strong performance as Nemo, torn between the life he knows and the life he wants; and Elliot Liburd is great to watch as Daz, adding additional layers to the character. While on the outside Daz may seem like a womanising ‘lad’, there’s a lot more to him than meets the eye, which Liburd conveys well.
On the whole Time and Tide is a heart-warming story with bags of charm. With a great script full of laughs, well-rounded characters and brilliant acting, it’s certainly worth a watch. As Bernard Matthews would say, it’s bootiful.
Time and Tide is playing at the Park Theatre until 29 February.