Theatre Review: How We Begin (King’s Head Theatre, London) ★★★★

Helen and Diana have been friends for a long time, but what happens when they start to think their feelings run a bit deeper? When a friendship becomes an affair – where do the boundaries lie?

Playwright Elisabeth Lewerenz has written a tight and fun two-hander looking at a pair of idiosyncratic young women exploring the boundaries of their love and sexuality. 

Photos by Charlie Sambrook

From furtive fumblings in corners, secretly touching under tables, and weekends away, Helen (Talia Pick) and Diana (Emma Lucia) sneak around behind Diana’s boyfriend’s back. In the space of an hour we chart how a relationship begins, and how it ends, all in the hands of two funny and appealing actresses.

For me, stepping into a fringe theatre is always accompanied with a sense of slight dread – is this going to be utterly awful? Or is this going to be a real gem? At its best you walk away entertained, enlightened and carry a list of talents you want to keep an eye out for in the future. Thankfully How We Begin is the latter.

Director Elizabeth Benbow knows how to use the small thrust stage of the King’s Head Theatre to full effect. Swathed in white curtains and pink carpet, strewn with cushions (a perfect, simple design by Delyth Evans), the two actresses command the space, holding the audience’s eye contact, transforming the room from one location to another with the simplest of changes.

The real stand out of the night is Lewrenez’s witty and moving script. Filled with observations that had the house roaring with laughter (“You’ve got straight girl nails” is not something you expect to hear mid-sex scene), and a real eye for the abandon of early love, and the slow dissolve of its perfection.

After a month of seeing a few stereotypically awful pieces of fringe theatre, this reminded me why I traipse out to theatre pubs and small basement spaces. At its best, fringe theatre is everything theatre should be – great stories with great performances, and How We Begin is all of the above.

By Chad Armstrong

How We Begin plays at The King’s Head Theatre London until August 12th (a short, two night run). To find out when it will be staged again, follow @how_begin.

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