Esk Valley Theatre

Glaisdale, near Whitby, North Yorkshire, UK


production shot
production shot

Elizabeth Boag & Andrew Piper in Same Time Next Year



8 August 2012 by Kevin Berry

Bernard Slade's play, which had its Broadway premiere in 1975, is so rarely staged in this country but many will remember the Alan Alda/Ellen Burstyn film version. The play has long been a favourite of director Mark Stratton and for this Esk Valley Theatre staging his fondness is apparent. Yes it is a romantic comedy but it has depth and humanity.

Same Time Next Year is the best production thus far from Esk Valley Theatre, marking a significant raising of already excellent standards. There is integrity and understated emotional power in the playing and it is funny where so many American plays from that period have become unfunny. The humour is not slick, it is character driven and in the most heartening fashion.

Doris and George - Elizabeth Boag and Andrew Piper - stumble into bed and then agree, as the title implies, to meet annually thereafter. The meetings become more about themselves and their respective families than the sex and go on for almost a quarter of a century.

The play and the production are not dated, not lost in the dusty pages of a history book. Boag and Piper age gradually and believably. Even when Boag appears as a hippie, cue sophisticated sniggers, she is a hippie rather than someone merely wearing the clothes and the long haired wig. Hence, no sniggers.

How satisfying. Theatre of rare quality in a remote village hall and folk flocking in from miles around. Esk Valley Theatre is firmly established. Co-founders Sheila Carter and Mark Stratton have shown what can be done and now the level of expectation has been raised.


15th August 2012 by Charles Hutchinson

ESK Valley Theatre artistic director Mark Stratton first applied to stage Bernard Slade's Same Time Next Year three years ago.

Persistence has finally paid off after Samuel French Limited said yes to a month-long run, albeit with no London reviewers allowed, surely one of the more bizarre conditions to be administered, given that Glaisdale is so remote the moorland roads carry warnings to look out for sheep.

Serendipity has furnished the timing of Same Time Next Year's arrival at the Robinson Institute, now that it follows 2012's Dangerous Obsessions in the summer slot. Where that NJ Crisp thriller picked over the bleak consequences of adultery, Slade finds the romantic comedy in what becomes a regular away fixture.

It begins the morning after a one-night stand in the cottage bed-sitting room at an inn near Mendocino, north of San Francisco in February 1951. George has been calling Doris "Dorothy" all night; he was too preoccupied for her to correct him.

They feel guilt both have children and loving spouses but no regrets, and so George (Andrew Piper) and Doris (Picketing actress Elizabeth Boag) agree to meet same time, same place, next year, each with an excuse in place.

Slade picks up their story every five years, as he charts their journey through difficult times, be they hatches, despatches or marital hitches, over a 25-year span.

This structure gives a pleasing rhythm to short, sharply focused vignettes that allows Slade to filter American political, cultural and fashion changes through the couple's experiences, reflecting the dilemmas faced as a result of both internal and external forces in relationships.

The five-yearly cycle enables those changes to have more dramatic impact, much like the fashion-chasing hairstyles of Doris, but their consequences run deeper.

Such is Slade's sleight of hand that you can never second-guess what has happened in the intervening years or how each meeting will progress beyond the sex. Revelations are constantly surprising, often humorous but sometimes devastating too, and so the play is an emotional rollercoaster that that applies warts-and-all understanding rather than an intolerant attitude, to human behaviour.

The director's notes quote Slade's philosophy that theatre should be a celebration of the human condition and that the artist's job is to remind us of all that is good about ourselves. Slade, above all, comprehends that life's path is complicated and so too are relationships when subjected to so much change unlike the cottage bedsit, whose constancy in Pip Leckenby's design has a reassuring presence for the once-yearly couple.

Stratton's production has just the right ebb and flow, the observant wit and shards of sadness always well balanced. Piper and Boag, so impressive on her return to North Yorkshire, handle the sweeping shifts and revelations most affectingly and humorously, so much so that you wish you could catch up with George and Doris again through further years.

This is another high-quality production from a little gem of a company whose location sets a challenge to sat-nav systems, but you always want to come back same time next year.

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The Whitby Gazette: August 2012

"A funny and moving tale which is well worth seeing..."

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Emily Thwaite