A story of two doomed lovers that makes Titanic and Romeo & Juliet seem like rom-coms in comparison, Hello, Stranger is a hard-hitting and gritty piece of new writing. Directed and written by Abby Gandy, the piece tells the story of a dystopian world in which two nameless lovers from different sides of a conflict are trapped and subsequently persecuted for their secret relationship. Played by Tom Thornhill and Katie Walsh, the woman asks the man if he will kill her if she is captured, to save her going through the horrendous ordeal of torture and rape: ‘you can’t answer questions if you’re dead.’ Throughout the course of Gandy’s 50 minute piece, both characters are captured separately and subjected to extreme mental and physical pain, shattering both of their lives.
Thornhill and Walsh are both exceptional in their portrayal of their opposing characters with sizzling chemistry between them. Thornhill plays an idealist on the side of the government, naively hoping to have a future with the woman. Walsh’s counterpart is far more pragmatic and pessimistic about their situation, insisting that they can never be together. Unfortunately, this leads to a very repetitive dialogue and the plot doesn’t hugely expand from the pair’s differing views on whether or not they have a future together. However, despite this, both actors offer a giant variety of emotions despite the relatively samey script, making for very moving and believable performances.
Not much context is given about the setting of the piece; we are told that we are in a conflict; the actors wear modern, western dress, the set is basic with a sofa and a chair and very warm lighting. This created rather a lack of atmosphere, as it was hard for the audience to believe that the characters were in such a dangerous world when no context was specified in the script and there were no indicative semiotics onstage to illustrate where the characters were. Realistic makeup was used very effectively to reveal the torture of the characters, which was doubly impressive due to the short time the actors had to apply it. The style of the piece was very filmic; characters frequently entered the stage alone, stared out in anguish, then left again accompanied by haunting music which I believe would have been even more effective when applied to a screenplay.
I did very much enjoy the piece, primarily due to the beautiful acting displayed by Thornhill and Walsh. The ambiguity of the setting was intriguing however as it was never expanded upon, it made it a little hard for the audience to invest emotionally in the piece. Likewise, I would have liked the script, which despite posing interesting moral questions and some sparkling dialogue, to have a bit more of a journey as the characters did often have the same conversation multiple times. The cast and crew should be very proud of themselves though; Hello, Stranger was a display of fantastic acting talent and was a wonderful alternative to the type of show often written in student theatre. In my opinion, Watch This have had a very good term!