Tryst by Karoline Leach is a London-based psychological thriller patterned on real-life events between a serial fraudster and a vulnerable young woman at the tail end of the Edwardian era. The year is circa 1912 and George Love (Fred Perry), a penniless predator, sniffs out lonely young women who, if not wealthy, at least have a sizeable amount of cash he might prise from their loving fingertips. When we meet him he owes back rent, is dodging a furious landlady, and dines on watery bowls of soup. Self-assured and ruthless, he brushes off his one good suit and sets out to snare his next victim.
Adelaide Pinchin (Scarlett Brookes), a talented, but self-deprecating young milliner, just happens to be arranging a stylish hat in the front window of a London shop. George crosses the shop’s threshold and pounces on his trusting prey. He wines and dines Adelaide – craftily fleeing the restaurant without paying the check – learns she’s inherited a tidy sum and an expensive brooch from a maiden aunt, professes his love and proposes marriage. Within two days they elope and George has possession of Adelaide’s bank book. A cringing power play ensues between the two which should not be revealed in any review of Tryst.
Let it suffice to say the mastery of the piece, in which there is much exposition, lies primarily with its actors. In particular, Ms Brookes whose Adelaide transforms from a gullible, shy lass without much self-respect into an astute businesswoman who – although excruciatingly lonely – is not long fooled by George Love and his wily tricks.
‘Whose game is this anyway?‘ George declares when he realises Adelaide is well aware he is just another east-London crook. And at key moments, Fred Perry succeeds admirably in making the unscrupulous George a sympathetic character – albeit one with a brutal history – who might be able to change his spots.
Much of Tryst‘s mood is enhanced by its set design (Jessica Staton). A sinister milliner’s head form overlooks the stage set, while huge swathes of white muslin cloth hang from on high, reminiscent of the coverings above an infant’s cradle, or a shroud in which to wrap the dead. Two steamer trunks, casually strewn across the stage convey the sense of a dead-end journey before they are transformed into a creaky hotel bed. Under Phoebe Barran’s direction, the entire piece marries up the inner life of its characters with the objects that surround them.
Judging by the audience’s shock response to the play’s outcome, which left groups of people commenting to one another as they left the theatre, I have no qualms in citing Tryst as one of the best play’s on in London, which may well turn out to be one of the best plays you’ll see this year. Do make your way to Chiswick Playhouse. It’s definitely worth the journey.
Review by Loretta Monaco
Based on a true story, this tense thriller focuses on the serial fraudster, George Love, who encounters a naïve and vulnerable shop-girl, Adelaide Pinchin, in Edwardian London. What follows shocks them both as Love’s elaborate heist begins to unravel in frightening and unpredictable ways.
Leach’s suspenseful masterpiece has shocked audiences with its enthralling twists since its West End debut in 1997, with a later run off-Broadway. A gripping charade of predator and prey, the audience is drawn into a world dominated by the exploitation of insecurities and the seductive façade of charm.
Producer Chiswick Playhouse Productions
Director Phoebe Barran
Writer Karoline Leach
Cast Scarlett Brookes and Fred Perry
Designer Jessica Staton
Lighting Design Chris Mcdonnell
Sound Design David McSeveney
Production Manager Bryony Drury
Stage Manager Sophie Kohl
Twitter @ChiswickPlay, #TrystChiswick
2 Bath Road
London, W4 1LW