While We're Here

Theatre, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(2user reviews)
 (© Mark Douet)
© Mark DouetAndrew French and Tessa Peake-Jones in 'While We're Here' at Bush Theatre.
 (© Mark Douet)
© Mark Douet Andrew French and Tessa Peake-Jones in 'While We're Here' at Bush Theatre.
 (© Mark Douet)
© Mark Douet Andrew French in 'While We're Here' at Bush Theatre.
 (© Mark Douet)
© Mark Douet Tessa Peake-Jones and Andrew French in 'While We're Here' at Bush Theatre.
 (© Mark Douet)
© Mark DouetTessa Peake-Jones and Andrew French in 'While We're Here' at Bush Theatre.

The Bush's new studio theatre opens with a melancholy romance from rising star Barney Norris

Small in scale but huge in heart, this extremely touching and relatable new play from celebrated, prolific young writer Barney Norris (‘Visitors’) drops in on the living room of Carol (Tessa Peake-Jones), a middle-aged council worker who lives alone in her modest, tidy home on the south coast now that her daughter has gone to university. Sleeping on her sofa is excitable, chatty Eddie (Andrew French), an old flame of a similar age who has dropped back into her life after falling on hard times. There’s much to catch up on, and an initial frenzy of news and laughs between them develops into something more insightful and painful as time goes on.

Over five short acts, Norris gives us intense bursts of conversation that gradually amount to remarkably deep character studies. It’s a play of little moments with big impact, and Alice Hamilton’s production is intimate and compassionate. Eddie at first seems confident and lively, but French is great at hinting at the anxiety and trouble behind Eddie’s big, nervous smile, and Norris’s writing offers a window slowly opening on mental health issues that might lie just beneath the surface. Peake-Jones, too, gives a performance extremely well-attuned to the masks we wear and the walls we build to keep us safe. ‘While We’re Here’ aches with the pain of time passed, opportunities lost and life flashing by too quickly.

Average User Rating

4 / 5

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Saw this last night. A beautiful, simple play with an unusual couple. Rings true to the society we live in, the struggle of every day life, the nostalgia. The final monologue was so powerful, I had tears running down my cheeks when it ended. I hope more people go and see it. Bush Theatre is so intimate and their plays are the perfect antidote to the busy West End.


I love the aesthetic of this play. I don't every normally feel particularly struck by such a thing when going to a play but it is so complete that it creates such a wonderful nostalgic feel, you'd could believe it was a moment stuck in time. 

The new studio space is intimate and fits the cosy nature of this two-hander. Tessa Peake-Jones plays a happy go lucky home town girl and Andrew French her first real love; a relationship that could have been so much. Both characters are very lonely, both looking for solace is vastly different ways and both looking at the world at completley different angles. It constantly brings to the forefront the 'what ifs' in life; the missed opportunities and how they arrived at this point. 

Tessa Peake-Jones is brilliant as Carol. Gentle and meek, you can't help but want to get on stage and give her a hug. Andrew French delivers Eddie with an endearing energy but, as the bits of comedy crept through, it could sometimes seem as if he was in a different play. This could well be the directors (Alice Hamilton) decision but I did find myself wanting to laugh at moments where the rest of the audience seemed hooked on compassion. Either way the direction is simple but strong. The writing is fluid and natural, just like Visitors, but it does feel like he's seeking out the heartstrings for effect at times. 

It certainly makes you think and makes it poignancy felt but it never really goes anywhere. Whether this is a deliberate mirror to their situation or not, I still can't really decide but I never felt any resolution with the characters. Maybe that's the point, things rarely are fully resolved in life.