An old woman sinks back into the arms of her youthful male partner as if she is leaning into her memories of the past. A young woman slithers down the back of a much older man. Together, they make up one married couple. Siân Phillips's Maggie and Sam Cox's Billy look back on their younger selves – Edward Bennett's William and Leanne Rowe's Margaret – feelings heightened by the fact that one of them faces imminent death. Meanwhile, the audience sniffles audibly.
Abi Morgan, now a red-hot film and TV writer with 'The Iron Lady', 'Shame' and 'The Hour' to her credit, hasn't gone back to the theatre in search of autonomy. Rather, she has chosen to collaborate with choreographers Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett from Frantic Assembly as she once did on 'Tiny Dynamite'.
Her new piece mingles past, present and future as the two pairs physically and verbally intertwine, building up a portrait of Billy and Maggie's life together. We watch them struggle with infertility, flirt with infidelity and prepare for the final separation.
Morgan is stingy with her facts. At the beginning of their marriage, Maggie and Billy emigrate to an unnamed part of America, as if the playwright wants to separate them from family and friends. The times are only lightly suggested when, in what must be the '70s, Billy objects to Maggie taking a job in the local library.
While Morgan struggles to avoid sentimentality, the production, with its musical underscoring and evocative images, is less restrained. The flock of starlings that swoop across the video screens behind have a sinister beauty and become an omen of what is to come.
Apart from the occasional clumsy piece of choreography, Frantic Assembly and Morgan have created a highly emotional, tender piece, in which the intensity is remarkably sustained over 90 minutes. It feels as if one is holding one's breath from the first line to the last. Ageing, memory and the passage of time are powerful themes that affect us all. No wonder it's a case of tissues at the ready.