Whatever happens to our teenage dreams and is it ever wise to revisit your past? Twenty four years ago Molly was going to be happily married with kids and free of her stammer, Ray was going to be a heart surgeon. A kiss on the boardwalk full of hope and promise.
Now, nearly a quarter of a century later, Molly returns to her home town to find a note she wrote to herself as a 14 year old. A chance meeting with Ray shows that neither’s dreams and ambitions have been realised, she works in communications despite having problems communicating herself and he is a caretaker and odd job man.
Stephen Belber’s Dusk Rings A Bell has its European debut at the fifth HighTide Festival in Suffolk and proves to be a powerful look at repressed memory and regret.
As the memories of their younger selves are reawakened, we get slowly begin to unravel the choices that have shaped the present and how one traumatic event in particular continues to overshadow any future relationship.
Belber’s writing is wonderfully evocative, mixing lengthy monologues with crisp duets to provide a deep insight into the thoughts of the characters. There is a real feeling of hope here, desperately trying to come to the surface but always forced back by the fear of failure and regret.
There is real chemistry between Katherine Kingsley and Paul Blair as Molly and Ray. Kingsley’s Molly a mix of vulnerability but also a cold inner steel, unable to forgive Ray for his past actions. Blair gives Ray a real depth and complexity, a mix of gentleness and reflection coupled with a darker side that subtly hints that the events of the past are not totally buried.
Steven Atkinson’s direction sensibly focuses on the emotion, making good use of Takis’ simple but beautifully effective reed clad boardwalk set. Although set in the USA, the use of reeds, so prevalent in the local Suffolk countryside, provides a gentle emotional link.
The decision to play the piece in traverse doesn’t always work with sections of dialogue played away from half the audience but, overall, it’s a strong production that serves the script well.
Performed in a deserted printing works, HighTide once again shows that theatre can be performed in a variety of spaces and this European Premiere of Dusk Rings A Bell reinforces their credentials of bringing quality new drama to local and national audiences.
Photo: Katherine Kinglsey and Paul Blair in Dusk Rings A Bell. Photo by Bill Knight