Review: Harrogate at HighTide Festival

Sarah Ridgeway as Her and Nick Sidi as Him at the HighTide Festival Aldeburgh

Sarah Ridgeway as Her and Nick Sidi as Him at the HighTide Festival Aldeburgh - Credit: ©Nobby Clark Photographer

Harrogate grips from start to finish.

From the moment you realise everything is too set-up, that something is not quite right, through to seeing those initial moments come just about full circle, the performances of Nick Sidi and Sarah Ridgeway (whose characters are listed in the programme only as ‘Him’ and ‘Her’) draw you in and do not let you go until the final curtain.

Though dark in undertone, this show is about how people behave differently depending on who they are around, and as such a veneer of normality tries to dust itself over the top of these. As Ridgeway changes from secret visitor to daughter to wife of Sidi’s character the audience watches on with the dramatic irony of slowly knowing the connection between all three ahead of those on stage.

Meanwhile Sidi embodies the show’s theme, in each of the play’s three phases altering his character’s appearance and impression dependent on the company he keeps. The changes are not wholesale, as no one can completely change their personality, but it is just enough to show he is the same man experiencing differing emotional pressures.

When the end does come around Sidi’s ‘Him’ returns almost to how he behaved in the first third of the play and that is what brings out the truth of what has been going on. There are no specific explanations as to why he has developed his obsession, or what will eventually come of it, but the clues and suggestions throughout the show are enough to give context to the tale without overloading the watcher.

Smoothly flowing, simply set and with a pace which keeps you moving along without letting you fall behind, writer Al Smith has created a play with barely a word out of place – everything said has a purpose to develop either the story or its characters.

Richard Twyman has directed a show which has captivated audiences and which has been spoken of in glowing terms by people who have seen Harrogate. If you are making your way to HighTide this week it is certainly not one to miss.

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Edmund Crosthwaite

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