WHISTLE STOP. Written by Ameera Patel, directed by Frances Slabolepszy with Ameera Patel and Jaques de Silva
It happens every time. Just before the show starts the lights go out, and there is a collective breath in before they come up again and the world changes. Tonight the lights faded out on a big white bench, the only thing on stage; and when they came up again Ameera Patel was on it. Then she started whistling.
The subtle magic of theatre was worked on us as Patel and then Jaques de Silva began noticing each other and the audience went with. A few giggles of identification. Yes, what he said, oh absolutely what she said. And before I knew it I too was longing for, waiting for, hanging onto the possibility of love for these two.
Falling in love
Whistle Stop maps the journey of two strangers who start to fall in love on a park bench. Patel and De Silva are the woman and man. They begin by noticing each other. Then their thoughts turn awkwardly inward as they get all self-conscious and are unable to say what they feel, or mean what they say.
Before I knew it I was being swept up. Fantastic hope, bitter little resentments, momentary panic and self doubt, confusion, self-deprecation, irrational mood swings, overwhelming lust, silly hilariousness, embarrassing misunderstanding, and pure poetry. Just like early love.
Patel and De Silva are made for each other (literally – they are a real life couple too). Their performances are so synchronised it feels like they are breathing together, making every move seamless and every look perfect and filled with intention. And boy, do these two move. The bench is put through its paces, and we end up examining it, and the characters, from every single possible angle and point of view.
There is an improv game called Inner Voices, where the characters say very little directly to each other, but they speak their internal thoughts out loud; about themselves and each other. This notion forms the style and structure of Whistle Stop, and it is fresh and original and strangely seductive. Part of this seduction is the language. I loved the text, with its wild swings from heightened poetry and metaphor to mundane and shallow everyday concerns, from massive emotions to nitpicky irritations.
Frances Slabolepszy directs with clarity and creativity, delivering a bold physical style and subtle nuances, and then balancing this perfectly with a healthy dose of pure comic timing.
The thing I loved the most, is the universality of Whistle Stop. These two people could be anyone, anywhere, looking for and noticing the possibility of love. Whistle Stop is a precious and delightful thing and I urge you to make it your Whistle Stop at the Baxter this holiday season. It is an hour of pure theatrical magic.
Where and when: Baxter Theatre until 7 January