|Images from the National Theatre web site|
Although the careful choreography is very detailed, the actors and the characters aren't that charismatic - it takes a while for you to care. Moreover, the incompatibility of the two protagonists leaves you questioning where the whole thing is going and why it matters. Are we just watching the prelude to a drunken shag after a house party? Some of the dialogue seems laboured, featuring digressions about Scotch eggs and Strictly Come Dancing, as does the musical interlude in which the characters take it in turns to gyrate to a party playlist.
Still, as the single scene goes on, important themes begin to emerge. Beginning captures the angst that comes with approaching middle age, the pain of loneliness, the longing of childlessness, and the torture of being a remote parent who never sees their child. Moreover, Justine Mitchell is a talented actress, adept at changing her tone to convey emotion and frustration, while still maintaining the smiling demeanour of someone trying to make a stranger comfortable.
Sam Troughton seems more one dimensional - he plays a passive-aggressive bloke pretty well, but you may feel he struggles to give Danny depth despite the back story about a broken marriage and a daughter he never sees. You wonder whether he really did do an arts degree at Bristol, as he claims after dropping a fancy word into a sentence. The script can be mildly amusing, but is far from hilarious. Although Beginning is a brave exploration of important contemporary issues, it slips in the soft middle ground between comedy and tragedy. 7/10