There’s no explicit festive content in The Smallest Hour but this two-handed exercise in storytelling feels like stocking filler among the offerings in what has been an impressive 2018 for Griffin.
Think of it as a little end-of-year present.
Written and performed by Susie Youssef and Phil Spencer, it describes one late and fateful night in the lives of Shelley and Chris, brought together by chance in an Irish-themed pub.
It’s a reconnection of sorts. Shelley and Chris knew each other in high school where they were friendly though a long way short of intimate. Back in the day, the mutual attraction was zero.
Yet now, with eyes locked across a grimy stairwell, and with one wearing a police uniform, both are gripped by the feeling they are meant for each other.
But this night has a few more surprises to deliver before sunrise.
The story is related in short paragraphs – sentences sometimes – which makes this one-hour yarn feel like one spun from a “folded story” experiment or an exceptionally sympatico game of Consequences.
Youseff and Spencer are relaxed and companionable storytellers. They build a quick rapport with the audience and collapse the distance between narrator and subject to more or less nothing.
The rhythm and tempo of the piece doesn’t change much (at times the narrative baton passing becomes a little numbing) but the gentle swell of the story compensates, and the quiet score of shuffling drumbeats composed by Steve Francis generates a subtle undertow.
The Smallest Hour doesn’t need a lot in terms of staging but this production (directed by Scarlet McGlynn and designed by Tyler Hawkins) is a handsome one, with a stepped feature on stage and a light sculpture-like installation across the back wall.
A charming light entertainment with just enough bittersweet stirred in.
Take a date. You might end up holding hands.