A man and a woman meet in a pub. It’s no ordinary assignation; he’s a hired killer, and she has a ‘problem’ she’s hoping he can solve. That’s the basic premise of this darkly comic two-hander, where the two people we see on stage are just part of a wider mesh of internecine criminal intrigue.
Alex Dee is convincingly menacing as the nameless hitman: shaven-headed, leather-jacketed, an enamel Cross of St George pinned to his Ben Sherman shirt. There’s a tinge of weariness and sadness there too, the shadow of a life touched by tragedy and lived without friends. Lou Kendon-Ross, meanwhile, delivers much of the early comedy, particularly with her naïve inability to keep their transaction in any way discreet. But there are depths to her character revealed as time goes on, and Kendon-Ross successfully navigates a change both to the tone, and to the balance of power.
Each of the two has an extended comic monologue: his an appreciation of The Italian Job, hers an almost pathological love of colour-coding. While the former illuminates the hitman’s character, establishing him as the last of a breed that belongs in times gone by, the latter feels a little random; it doesn’t really connect to anything else in the plot. Still, an extended joke involving Post-it notes delivers plenty of laughs, and some hilarious surprise one-liners appear from nowhere every now and then.
There’s a hinterland to this story we occasionally glance into – a complex world of alliances and loyalties, filled with hard-men who live in fear of someone harder. An evocative description of a black-tie dinner gives the greatest insight, and reveals that there’s a change afoot which shakes the hitman’s confidence in the only set of rules he knows. It feels like there’s more worth exploring here; it’s a fascinating glimpse behind the curtain, but it’s over all too soon.
And while the story shapes up nicely for a dramatic conclusion, the twist isn’t satisfying as it might be. You don’t get that pleasing sense that you could have second-guessed it; it’s believable and rational, but it comes a bit out of the blue. We can see in retrospect how the back-story we’ve been hearing influences the way the hitman behaves, but it needs to be spelled out more clearly, so that it makes sense in the moment and connects us more deeply with both character and plot.
The ending’s a delight, funny and self-referential, and there’s a spark between the actors even though the characters themselves don’t chime. As the hitman himself at one point observes, they’re talking a lot, but they don’t understand each other. As such, the humour and the characterful performances are enjoyable – but you may well leave the theatre still wanting to understand more about their world.