views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Waving Goodbye
The Phoenix Artist Club
25th August 2015

★★★☆☆

Publicity image for Waving Goodbye

Photography provided by Tree Shadow Theatre

The best thing about being in an airport is leaving it. I mean, it's all hanging around, eating overpriced muffins and fighting with anyone unfortunate enough to be waiting for the same flight as you. Never mind suitcases, there's nothing like having your flight delayed to bring out your inner nutcases. In Andrew Shakeshaft's Waving Goodbye, sisters Rhiannon (Lucy Theobald) and Eleanor (Louisa Wilde) are squabbling over the decision to break their much-anticipated holiday early and return home for a funeral. Older, more sensible sister Eleanor is adamant that it's the right thing to do, whereas fun-loving Rhiannon is resentful that they've going back to the UK just as she's finally found a bit of freedom.

For a simple two-hander like this, the Phoenix Artist Club is an ideal venue. Most of the action involves the girls lazing around on two chairs, waiting for news of their flight to finally start boarding, and not a great deal of space is therefore needed. They do occasionally sit on the floor, which creates a poor line of sight for some of the audience, however these moments are kept brief and infrequent. Occasional sound effects by Shakeshaft reinforce the airport environment, without any complicated props required. With little to do in terms of setting the action, director Anita Parry is able to focus less on the space and instead more on the characterisation of Rhiannon and Eleanor.

The sibling dynamic is very credible, with Rhiannon deliberately pushing all of Eleanor's buttons then trying to defuse the situation of her own making by getting her to laugh, using tricks only a sister could know. Whilst the age gap isn't enormous, Eleanor does come across as almost a second mother, standing in for their actual mother whilst they're away from home. If it wasn't for the closeness in playing ages, you would almost wonder whether Eleanor was secretly Rhiannon's real mum. She seems to weigh herself down with a similar amount of responsibility.

Shakeshaft's script allows for some tender, poignant scenes, but there is a lot of foreshadowing, with deliberate omissions. Whilst the way in which he does this is thankfully less heavy-handed than Chris Lee's less successful Shallow Slumber, the ending is perhaps less of a surprise to us than intended. For me though, whether you can see the ending coming or whether it blindsides you isn't actually that important; the message to this play is all about dealing with grief and guilt. Rhiannon may still be basking in the aftermath of a holiday romance, but Eleanor is taking the funeral more seriously. Shakeshaft handles this all with plenty of compassion, allowing us to understand each sister's point of view.

At just under 40 minutes, it doesn't feel like very long until we've waved goodbye to both Rhiannon and Eleanor. The short time we do spend with them in the terminal is both a funny and moving wait.

Waving Goodbye ran from 22nd to 27th August 2015 at the Phoenix Artist Club, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Tottenham Court Road (Northern, Central)



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