The Smallest Hour review

Theatre, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
The Smallest Hour Griffin Theatre 2018
Photograph: Brett Boardman

Susie Youssef and Phil Spencer star in this sweet and riotously funny rom-com

Not every night out ends with quite the adventure that Susie Youssef and Phil Spencer’s Shelley and Chris embark upon in this sweet and sharp romantic comedy. When you leave your home and head out in Sydney – although Youssef and Spencer are quick to assure their audience this play is not set in Sydney, just a city that sounds a lot like Sydney – things usually go to plan. But it’s nice to know that every night has the potential to be as surprising and transformative as this one if you’re willing to set foot outside your front door and give yourself over to the night.

Like many of those pivotal nights out, Shelley and Chris’s start out relatively inauspiciously. Shelley is at the hens’ night from hell. The kind where the liquor is flowing a little too freely, but everybody quietly resents how much they’ve been forced to pay for the drinks package. The kind where a bridezilla turns on her hens, and there are probably penis straws. The kind where nobody particularly wants to see a stripper, but there’s one there anyway. That’s where Chris comes in; he’s going through a little bit of a rough patch financially and is trying his hand at a new career. Not that this will be a permanent thing.

In one of those fateful coincidences, that you never quite expect to happen in a city as big as Sydney, Shelley and Chris already know each other. They went to uni together several years ago, but there’s an unexpected spark between them all these years later. It’s a brief meeting, but as soon as they’ve gone on their separate ways both begin to regret letting this chance pass them by. Will they find each other again before the night is over?

The performance style that Youssef and Spencer employ is utterly captivating: they play these two characters but also act as narrators, performing on a simple black stage. Both have wonderful comedic instincts and are totally in step with one another as both the co-writers and performers of the play, trading gags back and forth. There were a fair few flubbed lines on opening night – cleverly brushed off with good humour and plenty of charm – but that should settle as the pair get these characters even deeper under their skin.

Youssef and Spencer are excellent storytellers, imbuing the story with the little details that bring the sites, sounds and smells of their world and characters to life for the audience. There are some tonal shifts that are a little abrupt, but Youssef and Spencer have enough charisma to paper over pretty much any crack.

Despite the fact that the play falls quite firmly into the rom-com category – making it a perfect end-of-year theatrical treat – it also has some slightly deeper ground to cover, about living in the moment and discovering your own truths. And that’s always a good reminder during the silly season.

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