‘Meeting Point’ by Imogen Usherwood is an endearing and bittersweet reflection on the beginning of a relationship and all the things left unsaid. It follows two central characters, Sadie (Hatty Tagart) and Matt (Tom Cain) who meet on Tinder and each bring their own anxieties surrounding the start of a new relationship to the table. These two characters are supported by an ensemble, played by Archie Collins and Catherine Turner.
Beginning with the ensemble, Collins and Turner multi-role all of the supporting characters in the play, an extremely difficult task. They both handle this beautifully and bring the levels of energy needed for each character, for example adding more life to the other Tinder matches and therapist, while keeping the voices on answering machines appropriately neutral. Their natural ability to slip between roles was aided by the decision by directors Imogen Usherwood and Hugo Millard to keep their costumes neutral.
The play opens with a conversation between Sadie and her internal monologue, a thread that runs through the play. In the opening scene, Turner reads as Sadie’s internal monologue, but in some of the scenes between Sadie and Matt, Tagart and Cain address the audience directly, signifying that this is something that has not been said aloud. In these instances, Tagart truly brings out the cynicism in Sadie’s character, which on more than one occasion did make me laugh out loud. Matt’s addresses to the audience are surrounding his nervousness with regards to sex, and Cain brings this to the forefront in such a way that you cannot help but sympathise with the character. From the first scene, these asides and addresses succeed in making the audience fall in love with both characters and root for them to overcome the awkwardness on their first few dates.
Directors Usherwood and Millard’s staging succeeds in making the audience feel the awkwardness, without the play itself becoming awkward, an extremely impressive feat. By having Cain and Tagart turn completely to the audience, even angling their body language away from each other while they talk about the awkward moment that is occurring (for example, Sadie having taken Matt’s phone to read the poem, leaving him nothing to do but look at her) suggests the awkward silence that is occurring in the situation, without creating awkwardness between the actors and the audience.
Usherwood’s writing shines a light on the awkward, ugly, and painful moments that naturally occur in relationships. The writing does not shy away from Matt’s fear of intimacy, which is often ignored, addressing male anxiety through an impactful scene in which Matt phones a helpline. We are also presented with a raw image of grief, with Sadie explicitly stating that nobody ugly cries in films, despite true pain being part of grief. This culminates in an incredibly emotional scene, where both Matt and Sadie are sat on the stage and Sadie begins to open up to Matt. The cynicism that Tagart brought to the character in previous scenes makes the emotional impact even stronger, and Cain brings immense power to his character falling in love even though he is scared to do so.
All in all, 12 South Theatre Company presents a play that should not be missed. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will make you really crave lemon drizzle cake.